Players get a new home with Soccerdome II

AT PLAY

After some delays, athletic facility opens its doors at Arundel site

December 07, 2005|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It took a little extra time, but Soccerdome II finally opened last weekend in Harmans.

The new indoor soccer facility was scheduled to open Nov. 8, but a few last-minute delays involving Anne Arundel County occupancy requirements pushed things back until last Friday. That's when the doors opened for a very busy weekend.

"It went pretty well," said manager April Walker. "In the very beginning of the winter, there are always a few things going on in soccer, but generally we had probably 95 percent of our games go and everything really went well."

The delay came mainly because Anne Arundel County officials insisted on having a voice-evacuation system in place because of the building's large size - 34,000 square feet. Soccerdome's owners thought they would be able to open the building with a temporary occupancy permit, but the county refused, so they needed to do some fast work.

Clif Everett and Jose Benitez, president and vice president of the operations, acted quickly. A long delay would have pushed back their indoor leagues and caused many problems because it could have forced teams or players to drop out.

So they brought in fire protection engineer Mark Dempsey to get everything in place in only three weeks. Walker said that was a short time, but they wanted to get the building open by last weekend.

"If it wasn't for him, we probably wouldn't have been able to open [last weekend]," Walker said.

Another delay would likely have forced the indoor leagues to run into other leagues and cause disruptions.

"We knew we really had to do everything we could to open last week," Walker said. "We're very happy and excited" to be open.

Everett said in a recent interview that getting the building was an opportunity they couldn't pass up, especially since they were starting to pile up a wait list of teams at the Howard County facility - Soccerdome I.

Early last month, Everett said that about 150 teams had signed up for winter leagues.

Walker said this week that about 95 percent of the leagues are filled. However, the Soccerdome owners were fortunate that the various leagues didn't balk when games scheduled for early November didn't take place until last weekend.

Benitez said they were pleased that people realized what the delays were about.

"I was happy at how understanding and patient the people were," he said. "The adults, they were pushed back at least three weeks, but they were great about it."

Soccerdome II opens as early as 7 a.m. some days and stays available for games until midnight on weekends.

The building is slightly smaller than Soccerdome I, which has 38,000 square feet. However, it has three fields, like the original building. The new Soccerdome has two fields with no walls so the game can be played more like outdoor soccer, plus a smaller field with glass walls.

Getting good turnouts in the winter and spring will be helpful because Everett and Benitez have said that in the summer months it's tougher to find players and leagues. But now that Soccerdome II is open, they can start trying to draw people.

"We're so tired and exhausted now that we can't really be as happy as we wish we could," Walker said with a laugh. "But now we have to focus our energy on meeting [everyone's] needs."

One of the new leagues that's starting at Soccerdome II is an under-6 coed league. Walker said that proved to be one of the most popular - and loudest - of the opening weekend.

That league had four hours of play with eight teams and saw a number of good games. Walker said they were pleasantly surprised by its popularity.

"We got a tremendous response and excitement from the players and the parents," Walker said. "Some of the players are as young as 4 years old and [small], but they can play soccer."

At Soccerdome I in Howard County, the youngest league usually features 8-year-olds. But the younger children made a splash in their first weekend of play at Soccerdome II.

Many leagues in Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks start soon, along with other leagues in the area for the winter season. If you have a story idea for this column, send an e-mail to jseid1234@yahoo.com. We are looking especially for stories that are a little different.

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