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Letter to the Editor: Don’t re-purpose Arnold Cypress Park hockey rink!

I am writing to you with the sense of urgency as the news breaks that the City of Cypress will be re-purposing Arnold Cypress Park hockey rink. This decision was made without the input of community members who actively use the rink and mention of the impact it will have to hundreds of local derby athletes. In less than 14 hours we have collected over a 1000 signatures on our petition.

Contrary to the meeting agenda notes, the rink is used regularly year-around. The rink has been used by various leagues, including Badfish Roller Derby who alone bring in anywhere from 30-40 people to the rink four times a week. Badfish pays approximately 13K a year and had the opportunity to call the rink home for 6 great years (and hopefully many more!)

The decision to re-purpose the court for a sport that is primarily dominated by older adults without full transparency lacks integrity. To my knowledge, community and league members were not informed of such decision and and would have participated in the city council discussion should they have received advanced notice.

Roller derby is an underground sport which has been on the rise for years. It is built on standards that include creating a safe space women, children and the LGBTQ+ community. The leagues being displaced are responsible for doing more than encouraging exercise, it empowers individuals of all backgrounds, careers, body shapes and sizes to build confidence and has become an outlet for people dealing with neurological disorders, low-self esteem, health and identity issues. The leagues also give back to the community by participating in volunteer activities as a way of thanking them for allowing the sport to be a part of the neighborhood.

Derby builds not just athletes but families. Derby is incredibly accessible to single mothers who want a healthy outlet without having to worry about childcare costs. These local athletes take the skills they learn on the track and apply them to their lives beyond the rink. Not to mention is it one of the few sports that is predominantly dominated and operated by women.

The roller derby community is currently struggling to find affordable venues. As real estate prices increase, the teams get displaced to more expensive and often areas that are less safe for women and children. We are living a time where women are now more than ever fighting for equal pay in sports and in the corporate world. As a sport that’s primarily dominated by women, I find it ironic that communities are constantly dismissing their importance and value that derby provides to their communities.

Unbeknownst to city council members, there have had many athletes who have trained at that cypress park that have gone on to play world-class derby tournaments featured on BBC and ESPN. There have been many world-class athletes who have volunteered their time to mentor at Arnold Cypress Park.

Badfish specifically, has developed a reputation for being one of the favorite Southern California hosts for having a positive, encouraging, and family friendly environment. Losing this venue will mean they have to cancel the entire 2020 year of events and likely close the league. Losing this venue will not only impact the sport, but the surrounding business the benefit from occupants at the park. I myself, own a small business and without having the league I would have never had the courage to move forward with my business. I see children and adults using the rink before practices, I see residents using the rink to play fetch with their dogs.

What I want from this letter is to bring awareness to this issue that is silently impacting hundreds in the community. Without a venue the teams will fold and it would be a tragedy to lose something that bring such great value.

For those who are not familiar with the sport, it is important to know that what the Cypress home provides is a training space for world-class skaters. Athletes from leagues all over the world, including Badfish and Rebel Town, have both participated internationally at the Derby World Cup representing their respective countries. I would like to share an article featuring in competition for the first time, Team Indigenous, whose team members include a skater from Rebel Town.

‘Decolonizing’ Roller Derby? Team Indigenous Takes Up the Challenge

I am not alone in my message and have the support of our local derby community. I urge that you reconsider your decision as the park has plenty of space to house both desired sports. I appreciate your time and consideration. Please feel free to reach out if you would like to speak directly.

Jennifer Lee