Indoor soccer scores winter site
Ryan PyetteThe London Free Press
SOCCER BUFFS: Albert Choy and Tom Partalas, both of Southwestern Optimist, Cam Vassallo of the London District Youth Soccer League, Fred Benenati of Southwest Optimist and Mark Dwyer of Nothwest Optimist rally at the old Soccer Magic indoor soccer field yesterday.
After weeks of uncertainty, it looks as if London's indoor soccer players will finally have a roof over their heads this winter.
A small, non-profit, volunteer group of soccer organizers has pieced together a deal to put a dome back up at the site of the former Soccer World complex in east London near the airport. The group includes members of the Southwest Optimists, the Nor'West Optimists and the London and District Youth Soccer League under an umbrella partnership called London Optimist Indoor Soccer Inc.
"There will be indoor soccer this year -- it's a win-win situation for players, parents and coaches," longtime minor soccer volunteer Tom Partalas said. "Any money that's made will go back to the kids and back into improving the facility. We're going to keep the hourly rental rates as low as possible. All we're asking is that local soccer players support it and the ones who love the sport will do that."
There had been indoor soccer discussions with representatives of Western Fair and the former London Ice House, but those talks failed to produce a workable agreement, leading to a last-ditch effort to secure the Soccer Dome site.
The dome is expected to be active for more than 100 hours a week with LDYSL competitive and recreational games, plus interested adult teams. Indoor soccer, like the outdoor game, is growing at a quick pace with more than 2,000 youth players in London.
Initial registration will take place on Tuesday from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. at the Southwest Optimist complex on Southdale Road. The plan is to start the indoor season on the final weekend of this month and run to the middle of April. The dome is expected to arrive in the next two weeks.
"Our biggest asset is always our volunteers, that's how this thing is going to work,"said organizer Fred Benenati. "We wanted to provide the kids with a place to play and this gives us that opportunity."
The group hopes to make the site a long-term winner and eventually work a deal to buy the land. Previous private business attempts at the indoor dome have not worked out well, leading to a long line of owners, managers and names: Soccer Magic, Soccer World, Forest City Soccer Dome.
There isn't a name for this version of the facility yet, although London Soccer Dome has been mentioned.
"There have been others in the past but they were private groups and they had their own reasons for closing the soccer dome," Partalas said.
"We're non-profit, there's nothing in it for us. But something that hadn't happened before is that we're local, we're all involved in the soccer community, people know us here.
"We'll all work together here for the benefit of soccer."
There is no telling how the delay in resolving the local indoor soccer issue will affect registration. London United executive member Aldo Caranci said the uncertainty was one reason his organization's fall outdoor league was unable to attract more teams.
"A lot of coaches said they were waiting to see what happened with indoor," Caranci said. "They couldn't commit to us and we had to pull it for this year."
There is also a question on the value of indoor soccer. Some coaches prefer their competitive players spend the offseason away from the sport and far from the risk of injury.
But London Supernova head coach Geoff Painter said: "It's good that indoor is available -- I think there's utility in indoor at the younger ages and for the older recreational players who want to get together once a week and play soccer."