Kicking off their second phase

Soccer Dome II opens Tuesday


Choosing to start a business often can be difficult, but Clif Everett and Jose Benitez didn't have much trouble deciding to build Soccer Dome II.

They opened the first Soccer Dome in Howard County about three years ago, and it quickly grew into a huge success. In that time, hundreds of teams signed up to play the site's large and varied number of leagues. Everett said that they compiled a customer database of about 6,000 people.

But with the large number came waiting lists, and Everett and Benitez soon began looking for a second location. They found one last winter on Shipley Avenue in Harmans, and construction quickly began on Soccer Dome II. The building's grand opening is set for Tuesday when the Washington Freedom will play an exhibition match.

The building will have 34,000 square feet and two full-sized indoor soccer fields plus a smaller multi-use field along with a snack bar, arcade and sports shop. It's similar to the Soccer Dome in Howard County, except that the new building will have two fields with no walls - making it much like outdoor soccer.

"It was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up," said Everett, who will serve as president. "It was a building with the correct column spacing, and we were looking for a while because we had some fairly significant wait lists of teams last winter. We were lucky to find this building."

The new Soccer Dome also means expansion in other ways. Benitez is Everett's co-owner and will now come on full time as the vice president. He had worked in the construction business on a regular basis while helping at Soccer Dome - but now soccer will be his full-time concern.

"I'm very excited now," Benitez said. "It's like a dream come true for me. When I was younger, I wanted to be a pro soccer player."

They've also added a third full-time person. April Walker has been hired as a manager to help with both buildings. She's been a part-time manager at the original Soccer Dome and will handle marketing duties for both places.

Soccer has grown into a big part of the Jessup resident's life. Walker has been a regular participant in an over-35 soccer moms league at Soccer Dome, and also has two children who play the sport.

Walker said the opening of a second Soccer Dome will help fill the need for more indoor soccer facilities.

"I think the main thing is that people want to get exercise and people want to get into physical activities," Walker said. "From almost the [start], the first Soccer Dome was over-booked. There were waiting lists right away ... now it will be much better for the customers."

The opening of the second Soccer Dome should help in a variety of ways with the leagues that are in place. Walker said that the previous waiting lists had been so long that they were turning too many people away, something they didn't want to keep doing.

But having a new facility should let each age group have more divisions, which means more teams and chances to get people into the facility.

The first Soccer Dome featured mostly under-10, under-12 and under-14 leagues for children. The problem with that set-up is that it would occasionally have kids of differing ages playing against each other, which sometimes led to noncompetitive games.

Soccer Dome II will have those same three age groups along with under-11 and under-13, so children are set to play against kids their own age.

"Now we won't have to turn [kids] away," Walker said.

Even before Soccer Dome II opens, Benitez estimated that they are already at about 80 percent capacity. Everett said they pushed at setting up more things on their Web site and getting a good base for an advance sign-up during the construction period during the summer.

"We've been working hard since February, that's when we made the offer on the building," Everett said. "Once they accepted our offer, we were creating the Web site, deciding what league would play on what nights and all that stuff."

The original Soccer Dome stays busy day and night, and the second one also should be jumping. Everett said it will open at 7 a.m. on weekends and at 9 a.m. on weekdays. They are hoping for more of the same in Soccer Dome II. Everett said they have already gotten about 150 teams signed up for leagues after the Nov. 8 grand opening - and are confident more will come.

"We're still working hard, and we still have a lot of spaces, especially in the adult leagues," Everett said. "We're working hard to get more adult teams in but the kids' leagues are almost full ... [but] we've been working hard to get to this point."

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