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Skating rink a venue with big ambitions
By BRETT CIHON
The charm of Chimes & Lights, or the visceral thrill of cage fights.
Both will draw crowds in Port Orchard on Dec. 3.
Across town from the annual holiday festival on the waterfront that Saturday night, there could be more than 1,000 people getting their kicks from a completely different kind of event.
Sk8town is hosting Liberation, a night of mixed martial arts bouts featuring 32 fighters who will try to punch, kick and grapple their way to victory inside the cage that will be erected in the center of the skating rink.
Liberation’s organizers had no idea the event fell on the same night as the Festival of Chimes & Lights, Sk8town co-owner Mark Baker said.
“It’s a coincidence,” he said. “I guess Port Orchard is going to be pretty busy that Saturday.”
Busy indeed. Baker expects more than 1,100 people will show up for the MMA throw-down, filling Sk8town to capacity.
And with three hometown fighters on the bill, the crowd will be rocking, Liberation co-promoter Jen Akopian said.
“Hometown fighters make the best fights,” Akopian said. “The crowd loves them.”
Port Orchard residents Chris Hogan, Derrick Waldrop and Michael Pearl plan to enter the soon-to-be-built octagon. Four fighters from Bremerton are also on the ticket.
Revolution RepubliQ — the promotion group operated by Akopian and her boyfriend, C.J. Halliburton, — strives to produce events that embrace the local community, she said. Along with the fighters, area tattoo parlors and gyms are sponsoring Liberation. It’s important to involve as much of the local community as possible, she said.
“We even hire local staff,” Akopian said.
Sk8land co-owner Mark Baker
Involving the community is something Sk8town also hopes to do more of, Baker said. Liberation is the second MMA event the facility on Piperberry Way has hosted this year.
The promotional materials for the event list the location as the Kitsap Event Center — not Sk8town — in hopes of rebranding the facility, Baker said. Baker hopes MMA and other events will soon become common at a place once known for little more than nighttime skates. Roller derby, zumba dance workouts and after-school classes are all coming soon to the 28,000-square-foot building.
“Sk8town is no longer just your parents’ skating rink,” Baker said.
Doors to Liberation open at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $15 in advance and $20 dollars at the door. The event is all-ages, and a special VIP lounge is available for those 21 and over. A portion of the ticket sales will go to a nonprofit organization that helps underprivileged fighters find low-cost training facilities, Halliburton said.
Though the fights feature only amateurs, Akopian and Halliburton like to run the show like professionals. On Dec. 2, there will be a weigh-in, as well as auditions for ring girls at Sk8town. The fighters will also have glitzy, cable TV style walk-ups to the ring on fight night. Walk-ups complete with music and lights don’t often happen in amateur fights, Akopian said.
“It’s a lot more than a fight,” Akopian said. “It’s a production.”
Revolution Republiq co-promoter Jen Akopian