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7/8/2004

Getting on a roll

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — A former software worker’s dream is to turn his love of sports into a new business — one he feels will be a big asset to the community.

Ken Gallegos, a third-generation Longmont native, has approached the city’s planning department about the possibility of building a 75,000-square-foot indoor sports complex in the Boulder County Business Center on the southwest corner of the Diagonal Highway and Hover Street.

The land is zoned business/light industrial, which is not appropriate for an indoor recreation center, according to Brien Schumacher, principal planner with the city.

“Primarily, (business light industrial) is geared more towards an office park, or an R&D-type facility,” Schumacher said. He said Gallegos will need the planning department to take a referral to city council, which would then take an informal look at the proposal.

If council likes the idea, planners could adopt an ordinance for passage that would apply a “code amendment” to the property, which would allow construction of the facility.

Obtaining a code amendment would be less costly, with less time involved, than making a full-blown zoning change, Schumacher said.

Aside from getting the proper land designation, Gallegos also will have to negotiate for the purchase of the land — a process he hasn’t started yet.

“I’m definitely putting the cart before the horse here,” he said. “I just love this location — the families, the demographics, the businesses. It’s just great.”

Though new to the world of development, Gallegos is taking the right approach by going to the city first, according to two experts.

“It’s pretty common to go to the city first and see how they feel about it before you begin land negotiations,” said Don Macy, a developer who owns much of the commercial property on the west side of south Hover Street.

The owner of the land is California-based KBS Realty Advisors. Frank Kelley of CB Richard Ellis acts as the agent for property.

Kelley said he hasn’t yet been contacted by Gallegos or his agent, but he agrees with Macy that Gallegos is taking the right approach.

“I (would) ask them to call the city — I think that’s a very logical way to go,” Kelley said. “If the city will support it, obviously the owners would very much support it.

“A use like this one is counter-traffic, counter-rush hour, and that may appeal to the city.”

Known on blueprints only as the “Roller Hockey Center,” the plan is an ambitious one. Gallegos worked on the concept for six months, getting input from friends and others. The center — if built — will sit on 41/2 acres and cost about $4.5 million. The plans call for two large play areas — one devoted to a regulation-size hockey rink, and the other side perhaps devoted to volleyball, lacrosse, flag football or soccer, although that part of the plan is not yet finalized.

“I want to make it as multi-purpose as possible, the entire building,” Gallegos said.

Plans also include a jogging track, locker rooms, bleachers for spectators, a kids’ play area, a pro shop, a couple of small restaurants and party rooms.

Gallegos formerly worked as an engineering services manager with Rational Software, which was bought out by IBM. When Big Blue decided to move the entire division to Massachusetts, Gallegos declined to go, not wanting to leave his hometown.

But he served as the transitional manager for the Rational move, and he said during that six-month period, “I made up my mind I was going to do something on my own.”

With support from his wife, who is still employed in the software industry and owns a home-based business, Gallegos did research and believes the market exists for an indoor hockey rink.

“Everybody’s been asking me, ‘Why not ice? Why not ice?’” he said. “I want to be able to keep the price around $8 per game, per kid. If you go to ice, you almost double that.”

The former owner of Roll-O-Rena, Mike Rentz, and the owner of Westminster’s Breakaway Center helped Gallegos figure out what would be needed to make the center financially worthwhile for investors.

“What we’re trying to do is 30 different teams in five divisions,” said Gallegos, adding that he could go to eight teams per division, or a total of 40 teams. “That would max out one rink. And basically, if we’re able to do that, we would meet all our numbers.”

A lot of things have to fall into place for his dream to come true, but as he looks out over the large swath of weedy land, Gallegos talks about the day when he can manage his own sports complex, with his three kids helping out and using the facility themselves.

“This is a big project, but I figured, ‘Just go for it,’” he said.

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.