Soccer Dome II coming up

You might assume that mid- afternoon on a cold, January Tuesday, Soccer Dome in Jessup would not exactly be experiencing a prime-time moment.

You would be right, but then the 2-year-old indoor soccer facility was not nearly as dead as you might assume, either. On the biggest of three fields, more than two dozen paying customers - all Latino men - had a fluid, drop-in game going, end-to-end, no formal teams, no coaches, no uniforms, no referee but also no arguments, substitutes entering play on-the-fly.


Nearby, on Soccer Dome's mini- practice field, a Venezuelan-coach-by-way-of-Italy-and-most-recently-Elkridge conducted a private lesson, teaching a teenage girl several of the more refined, one-on-one shooting moves seen at the game's higher levels.

Merely feet away, at the concession stand, with about 50 high school boys on four teams arriving for their two games on adjoining fields at 4 p.m., owner Clif Everett greeted a visitor.


"Have you heard our news?" he asked.


"We're expanding," said a grinning Everett, who worked in the concession end of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus before turning his passion, his then-avocation - soccer - into a business.

So encouraging, he said, have been Soccer Dome's first two years of business with a 10-year lease on the Montevideo Drive facility, he and his family backers have a contract to buy a warehouse in Harmans, in Anne Arundel County, for Soccer Dome II.

The property is at 7453 Shipley Ave., Everett said, "about five minutes from Route 100 and Interstate 97."

"I'm nervous but definitely pleased that we can do this. The Harmans building is very similar in design to this," he said, but a bit smaller. "It'll let us have two premier-type fields, though, which will mean something to the people who've played here."

What that means is side-by-side fields with bladed, synthetic turf laced with millions of tiny rubber pellets - recycled tires. Players like the "give" of the surface and the true roll and bounce of the ball. Bright, white lines define the playing area, with exterior walls and floor-to-ceiling netting keeping errant balls in play. There will be no hockey dasherboards in the new facility.

Soccer Dome in Jessup has one field surrounded by dasherboards, a hand-me-down from the old Volleyball House in Columbia and for the past 20 or so years, the norm for indoor soccer in this country. The open field at Jessup was a first of its kind in Central Maryland.


"We estimate that 85 percent of our customers prefer the premier field to the boards," Everett said. "But there are some who still like the dasherboards, so we'll keep them here. But the game's more real on the open field."

Everett, who declined to talk about terms for the purchase, said he expects the Harmans Soccer Dome to open in November.

The expansion has become possible, Everett said, "because we've received such great support from the community here."

The 6,000-player Soccer Association of Columbia-Howard County has been an active supporter of Soccer Dome, now running an extensive "soccer tots" program there.

"We want them to succeed," said Jim Carlan, operations director for SAC-HC. "We try to do whatever we can to help them out. It's good for the sport."

And while many teams from Howard County filled Soccer Dome's leagues since opening day in December 2003, Everett said higher-than-expected traffic has come from the Severna Park-Annapolis area of Anne Arundel County, as well as Bowie. In fact, three of four high school teams competing last Tuesday afternoon were Anne Arundel squads.


Mike Patterson coaches a younger Anne Arundel team - an under-11 girls team in the Severna Park Green Hornets program - that has patronized Soccer Dome since its opening.

"There's definitely a need for indoor fields in our county," said Patterson, a physical therapist who has been a youth coach for six years.

But even if some Anne Arundel teams shift to Soccer Dome II next winter, Everett said that is why he is expanding.

"We have waiting lists for every one of our [40] leagues this winter," Everett said.

And when is prime time at Soccer Dome? Everett estimates that as many as 500 patrons - ranging from tots to over-35s - play at the Jessup facility each weekday.

"It's triple that on weekends," he said. "We're open those days from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m, and it goes nonstop."