Black Kids in Grove Need Roller Hockey!

Johnny Winton and some white boys say so

Architect Thorn Grafton, a Friends of PP founding member, thought that maybe the bar/café, which he suggested should be a nonprofit venture, could be named the Nut House. "Everybody's talking about putting the nut back into Coconut Grove," he submits. "It could be a place where residents come and reaffirm the quirkiness of the Grove, or for visitors to kind of understand that the Grove is a very unique place, and absorb [its] heritage and culture and history ..."

Or it could be roller hockey central, with a steady stream of hockey moms and dads in SUVs and other vehicles lumbering along the park's dirt track road and up to the rink. "I think the real issue here is [the need for] a true design process, a true charrette, a true master plan," Grafton says. "Whatever process we can all come up with for the maximum participation of Coconut Grove residents in the future of their park, instead of the park continuing to be a repository for special interests who slide things in under the radar."

The only "process" that will take place, Commissioner Winton assures, will be kids with helmets, pads, sticks, and skates flocking to Peacock Park. "We are going to get that roller hockey thing cranked back up again because it is very important for kids from the West Grove," Winton told New Timesfrom a hospital bed in Crested Butte, Colorado, two days after a skiing accident splintered one of his legs in four places. He seemed to have an uncanny clairvoyance about the situation, perhaps from the painkillers: "This is likely to be one of those deals where a group of my constituents will be ticked, because I'm not changing," he predicted.

Terry, the founder of the satirical Orange Bowl Parade permutation known as the King Mango Strut, remembers Winton as the guy who almost revolutionized local politics by endorsing a community-wide meeting on alternatives to a pro baseball stadium in downtown Miami's bayside Bicentennial Park. But now King Mango is scratching his head. "It's real macho," he huffs. "Almost everybody supporting it are guys who love hockey. Just because you got clout and like hockey, that's no reason to put roller hockey in there." Noting that he'd been a hockey dad when his son used to play in Kendall a few years ago, Terry continues his litany against the Peacock Park rink plan. "They usually put it in a big area where there's free parking," he observes. "It's way too hot to play in the summer. The equipment is expensive. I just don't get it. Roller hockey is kind of dying out."

But Bob Brennan, a Friends of PP member, thinks his buddy, roller hockey coach Bruce Reep, will rally the roller hockeyiatein time. "The program is a wonderful thing and why Glenn is huffy about it I don't know," offers Brennan, a long-time white Grove-ite whose teenage boys played roller hockey in recent years. "Maybe just because he wasn't told about it and he was maybe a little offended. And I'm sorry about that, but this is something that should go forward because it's a great program. And so we give up a little bit of the park. Well goddamn it, that's what parks are for! They're for creating things like that. And I guarantee you that that [rink] will be busy for as long as Bruce Reep is alive." Brennan notes that Reep, a white Grove native who runs a boat construction business and lives next to Mayor Diaz, could easily take off his gloves: "Bruce gets a little testy when you start messing with his hockey program," Brennan warns.

Terry confirms Brennan's assessment. "Bruce Reep came to one of our first meetings. And he told me, 'I don't care what you do, but don't mess with my hockey,'" Terry recalls. Reep could not be reached for comment.

That's pretty much Winton's message, too. Kids played roller hockey on Peacock Park tennis courts in the mid-Nineties, he says, and by God, they will again. "Glenn's a good guy and I like him but that doesn't mean I have to agree with him," Winton declares. "I talked to him a couple of weeks ago. Said 'Glenn, I'm puttin' roller hockey back in Peacock Park where it came from. If you can find me a better location then I'll consider it. But don't talk to me about how you could create some grand park.'"

Paradoxically, a grand park system is exactly what Winton and his fellow commissioners decided to create last year, when they voted to solicit bids for a new citywide master plan for Miami's public parks. Which is why Terry and others believe it is silly to build a roller hockey rink in Peacock Park before the master plan is ready. Commissioners are scheduled to vote March 27 on a proposal to send $535,000 in Safe Neighborhood Park Bond money to the landscape architecture firm of Falcón and Bueno to develop the master plan. Also pending is a city-commissioned marketing study the Chesapeake Group is to conduct on ways to bring more people into the central Grove business district. Presumably, Peacock Park would be one facet of the inquiry.

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