Volleyball House to get 8 courts, 2 soccer arenas

PLAYING AROUND

Howard At Play

March 04, 2001|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

TWO INDOOR soccer fields and eight volleyball courts in a new facility are part of the resolution of a lawsuit that owners of Columbia's Volleyball House had pending against their Philadelphia-based landlord.

Denouement of the suit came last week with sort of a darkest-hours-before-dawn flavor. Financial terms were not disclosed, although Volleyball House had been seeking $2.8 million in damages.

But instead of possibly costing Howard County its only indoor soccer field and a volleyball operation that is unusual in all the Middle Atlantic, the result will double the number of indoor soccer fields in Howard County and boost by a third the number of volleyball courts that Volleyball House has today.

The landlord, Colgatedrive Associates, is freed up to, presumably, convert Volleyball House's current space into three floors of offices that will generate higher revenue.

The civil suit, in which VBH owners alleged, among other things, that the landlord had waged an ugly campaign to get the sports facility out of its Renaissance at Gateway building, had been scheduled for trial Thursday. Volleyball House was faced with potential loss of its lease March 31, although it argued it had the right to extend another five years. But on Monday, the sides settled out of court.

"We plan to open the doors on our new facility in November, if all goes well and Howard County officials expedite all necessary permits and other paperwork," said Judith DeJong, president of the 11-year-old Volleyball House.

She quickly posted a note on VBH's Web site, assuring patrons that spring leagues will continue without interruption, although summertime operations may experience disruption.

"We may have to camp out someplace else for a couple months while the new facility is completed," she said.

DeJong said a limited partnership that includes her, her husband, other VBH partners and additional investors has bid on land not far from the current address in the Gateway Industrial Center for a 60,000-plus-square-foot facility that would cost, counting land, bricks and mortar, about $3 million.

The partners opted for two soccer fields, DeJong said, "because we have absolutely huge demand for soccer in the winter. We know we can fill two fields then and maybe a third, although that would be risky. But for the last couple years, we've even had waiting lists for spring and fall soccer."

Earth Treks' Climbing Center, which has sublet its space from Volleyball House, plans to remain where it is, owner Chris Warner said.

Covenant Park

The Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County expects to place the formal proposal for its new, 10-field complex off Centennial Lane, roughly opposite Ellicott City's Centennial Park, in the county government zoning mill this week.

Plans for the long-awaited complex, announced in August, include a two-level, 7,000-square-foot building. It will house the 6,000-player association's offices and storage facilities and other space, plus restrooms, concessions and a pavilion that can be used as shelter during bad weather.

"We're modeling it after the European-style clubhouse," said SAC/HC President Jim Carlan, who also envisions having satellite TV capable of bringing in soccer games from around the world.

The club has picked a name: Covenant Park. That's a tribute to Covenant Baptist Church.

Covenant Baptist sold the land for the soccer fields to SAC/HC. It kept about 6 acres, on which it plans to build a new church.

Plans call for six 70-by-120-yard fields, which means up to international standards, three 60-by-100-yard fields, and one 50-by-80-yard field, with all but the smallest oriented north and south to protect players from looking into the sun.

The fields will be tiered on the rolling, 52.4-acre tract, providing varied site lines and seating areas reminiscent - for you local soccer aficionados - of those at Centennial High and Worthington Elementary schools, both longtime SAC/HC venues.

To proceed, SAC/HC needs a special zoning exception from the county, and although county regulations are being recast, achieving that is not expected to be a problem for the rural-conservation zone, said David Carney, who is doing SAC/HC's legal work.

Carney said he is hoping for a public hearing on the plans by late summer or early fall, which should allow the start of earth moving by next March. And that should enable SAC/HC to open in spring 2003, about six months past initial plans.

"We want opening to be our Memorial Day tournament in 2003," said Carlan. "That's our target, and we're going to do everything in our power to meet that."

Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or address e-mail to lowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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