Indoor sports center set for first full season

Woodbine facility open for team practice, parties

Small business

Howard Business

December 01, 2003|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

John and Darlene Keister of Woodbine opened an indoor sports center in Howard County because they were tired of driving their daughter, Candace, to Westminster for soccer practice.

"That's a long drive when it's bad weather," Darlene Keister said.

Candace, 11, had been playing soccer in a local Recreation and Parks program. When the fall season ended, several of the girls wanted to continue playing through the winter months. John Keister, who was also the team's coach, was happy to continue his work with the team, but the closest indoor facility he could find was in Carroll County.

The experience of driving back and forth to the Carroll Indoor Sports Center, especially when the roads were bad, prompted the Keisters to create an indoor facility closer to their home.

Last spring, they opened Nothing But Air, an indoor sports center with three fields.

"We saw the need for it first and went from there," Darlene Keister said.

Nothing But Air is open from Nov. 1 to March 31. It held its grand opening last February, about six weeks before closing for the season, so this winter marks the center's first full season. "We're anxious to see how this year goes," Darlene Keister said.

So far, so good.

When Nothing But Air first opened, the Keisters mailed out brochures to publicize their new business. At the start of this season, they placed ads in newspapers. Local teams, including the Glenelg High School girls' soccer team and the Mount Hebron High School girls' lacrosse team, have already signed on.

"I guess word of mouth is getting out," Darlene Keister said.

The facility is at the Circle D Farm in Woodbine, a membership club that has indoor and outdoor tennis courts, a fitness center, a day camp, a banquet hall and a clubhouse.

Circle D owner Tim Dowd said he has known the Keisters for years, and he liked the plan as soon as they approached him with it. "There's a huge demand for what they are doing," he said.

The Keisters pay rent for the land only during the months when the facility is in operation. As a bonus for Dowd, the facility brings potential members to his location.

The playing fields are covered with indoor turf and are ideal for soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and baseball. Two of the fields have nets, and one has a dasher board - a half wall that is necessary for field hockey and useful for keeping stray balls contained when younger children play soccer.

The exterior is a bubble that is inflated in the fall and deflated in the spring. Indoor fans keep it stable. It takes the Keisters about three weeks to set up the bubble, roll out the turf and get the lights situated before the facility is ready for action.

Although the bubble is heated, it is not insulated, Darlene Keister said. The cool air is fine for the exercising children, but adults who get chilly while watching can go to the Circle D clubhouse to warm up, watch television or purchase a soda.

Rates vary depending on the day or time of use, ranging from $55 to $75 an hour.

Clients can pay by the hour, but many prefer to pay by the month, Darlene Keister said.

"They can do as little as they want. They can go week to week," she said. "But a lot of people seem to schedule each month, bulk rentals. It seems like a lot of people want to reserve certain times and days."

So far, the facilities are being used only for training during the off-season. Next year, though, competition may be introduced, Darlene Keister said.

The center also is available for birthday parties. An indoor field can be rented for 60 minutes, and kids can then go to the clubhouse for pizza, hot dogs, cake and present-opening. The cost is $10 per child, with a 10-child minimum, and it includes food supplied by Circle D.

Nothing but Air is at 15535 Carrs Mill Road in Woodbine. Information: 410-489-9740 or www.nbasoccer.com.

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