Edgewood arena encourages kids to play indoor soccer

October 25, 1992|By Frank Lynch | Frank Lynch,Staff Writer

The owners of the Maryland Sports Arena -- one a former professional player, the other a businessman -- have combined skills to provide a place for young soccer players to work on their game.

Bobby McAvan, a native of Dundee, Scotland, represented his country in international competition and played professionally in Canada and for the Baltimore Blast from 1981 to 1985. After his playing days, he stayed close to the sport by working in the front office for the Blast for two years before opening a pro shop.

Ron Szczybor, a native of East Baltimore, played for various club teams, Archbishop Curley High School and Loyola College's national champions in 1976. He entered the world of finance after graduating from Loyola and is a financial adviser.

Three years ago, the two became partners and bought the arena at 2723 Pulaski Highway in Edgewood. Since then, they have refurbished the interior, added a pit beef stand and restructured the operation of the arena, which opened in 1984.

"When we took over, the place was literally a dump," said Mr. Szczybor. "It was dirty, unattractive and was geared to the older [16 and over] ages."

The 21,000-square-foot building, originally used as a tennis club, houses a concession area with table and chairs, a video game area, locker rooms and a fully equipped pro shop. The pit beef stand, usually closed in the winter, will be connected to the arena by a hallway and remain open all year.

Mr. Szczybor said the partners decided to shift the emphasis to recreational soccer and create a family atmosphere. "I'm convinced that if America ever fully embraces soccer, it will be the indoor game that is chosen," he said. "That is why we cater primarily to youngsters 6 to 16 years of age."

"Our long-range goal is to make this place a total soccer center, where youngsters will be taught the game entirely."

The difference between their facility and others in the metropolitanarea is in emphasis. "Others are just used for games," said Mr. McAvan. "They just open their doors for games. They don't offer all that we do here," he said.

"We want to give something back to the game that gave us so much enjoyment," Mr. Szczybor said.

Mr. McAvan conducts camps at the arena six weeks each summer and during the Christmas vacation. He also takes his camp to Ocean City for three weeks each year.

Plans for the arena include a separate training room for players who plan to continue their careers in high school, college and perhaps professionally.

"Ideally, I'd like to see the indoor game played in high schools and colleges," said Mr. Szczybor. "I see it being played in the spring when school gymnasiums are available."

The indoor season runs November to March. About 1,500 youngsters playing on 100 teams will take part in league games and tournaments this season. Each team pays $450 for an eight-week season, with a maximum of 16 weeks at $900.

The arena is open 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday and Sunday. Mr. Szczybor said the partners have enough property to double the building's size.

RF "Hopefully, someday we'll be financially able to expand," he said.

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