MSL calls Blast on the carpet about its inferior playing surface at Arena


It is Christmas Eve, and if Santa is listening, he might want to bring the Blast a new carpet for the Arena playing field.

In a letter from the Major Soccer League, and in a follow-up letter from MSL commissioner Earl Foreman, the Blast has been put on notice that its playing field is not up to standard.

In fact, senior referee Toros Kibritjian Saturday said it is the worst in the entire league.

"It is true we're on notice that the carpet isn't acceptable," said Blast general manager John Borozzi. "I've informed the building and we've been working on improving it."

In exchange for about $30,000 worth of repairs over the last 10 days, the Blast transferred ownership of the carpet to the Arena and Capital Centre Management, which will also use it for indoor lacrosse and other events.

Saturday, Kibritjian, Arena manager Donna Patterson and Borozzi inspected the carpets and checked out the improvements, which included sewing new backing 18 inches wide at every seam and adding new velcro strips at each seam.

Kibritjian said he would make a written report to the commissioner this week.

"We have made several repairs and we think we've solved the problem," said Patterson. "But anytime you are doing repairs on a carpet that is six or seven years old, there is a lot of wear and it requires constant repairs."

The cost of a new carpet is approximately $80,000. Blast owner Ed Hale said at the start of the season he hoped to work out a deal for a new carpet, with the team, the city and the Arena sharing the cost. But there has been no such deal.

Sources said Patterson had a meeting with the city last Wednesday to discuss the availability of funds for a new playing surface.

"The Blast would like a new carpet. We'd like a new carpet. But it is a long process," Patterson said.

In the meantime, teams playing here, including the Blast, cringe.

Cleveland coach Kai Haaskivi explained the impact a carpet can have.

"First it is uncomfortable for the players taking off or stopping, because you don't know if that carpet will hold up under you," he said. "I once had an injury there that kept me out a month, after I banged my heel on the ice.

"Second, that carpet is so uneven the ball bounces aren't true and the roll is uneven. There are dead spots and bubbles. It would be nice, if one day this league came up with rules for standardized surfaces around the league. Now we play on top of ice, boards and concrete. Every place is a little different."

But no place is worse than the Arena.

Saturday's game was the first one played after major repairs, and although Kibritjian said the surface was better, no one is yet sure it will pass inspection.

Certainly, it didn't pass in San Diego coach Ron Newman's view.

"They think they've made improvements on this rug?" said Newman, whose team won at the Arena Saturday, 5-4. "I thought it was worse. There were so many bad bounces. Anyway, I wouldn't like them to lay the carpet in my front room, if they think this is how it should be done."

Still, it did look better. Fewer players tripped, though at one point Joe Barger slipped on a defensive play in front of the goal.

"There have been a couple of situations in the past that got goofy out there because of the carpet," said Blast goalkeeper Scott Manning. "The ball would roll the wrong way, because of a bump or it [the carpet] would slip under me in the goal and I'd be standing on ice and unable to make a play.

"But I did think it was better [Saturday]."

Blast coach Kenny Cooper admits the carpet has cost his team a couple of ankle sprains. But he would not blame the outcome of any game on the surface.

"Subconsciously it might affect a player's performance, but we're working on improving it," Cooper said. "We want the carpet laid right. We know Ed Hale is not cheap and that it is important to do things in a classy manner and that's how we'll handle this."

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