Sportsplex and the smell of victory

Published 9:09 pm Tuesday, August 31, 2010

While watching Lakeland roll, basically without a problem, to four straight wins and a nice, tall trophy at the U.S. Field Hockey National Training Center in Friday and Saturday, it was impossible to avoid the scenes and sounds coming from next door at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex.

On Friday evening, Cox and Kellam opened their football seasons at the Sportsplex. Saturday was even more of a football festival at the stadium.

Dozens of teams, meaning hundreds of players with hundreds of parents in tow, were there all day for a big Pop Warner event.

On Saturday evening, the Southern Virginia Trojans hosted the Chambersburg Cardinals in a semi-pro football game.

Depending on how you want to count football players waiting for their chance on the field or drinking Gatorades after their game, the Pop Warner party far outdrew Trojans vs. Cardinals and Cox vs. Kellam, but there were good crowds both evenings.

I was, relatively speaking, a serious Virginia Beach Mariner fan.

The Virginia Beach Mariners were a pro soccer team that used to call the Sportsplex home until the franchise folded four or five years ago. The Mariners were one step down from a Major League Soccer team, or triple-A in baseball terms.

The normal attendance for a Mariners game, something meant to be a centerpiece of the Sportsplex’s existence, looked exactly the same as the Trojans vs. Chambersburg, no offense to the semi-pro squads.

And compared to all the Virginia Beach Pop Warner opening-day hoedown? Ha, if the Mariners could’ve drawn one crowd like that a season, they’d still be around.

Adjacent to the Sportsplex is the National Training Center, serving for all purposes as the hub of high school field hockey in Virginia, as well as many other tournaments, camps, Team USA events and more.

Brand new on the opposite end of the Sportsplex is the Virginia Beach Fieldhouse, a building slightly smaller than the Pentagon for all sorts of youth and adult teams, leagues and special events. Across the street is the Princess Anne Athletic Complex, with acres of soccer/field hockey/football/lacrosse fields.

I don’t know if the Sportsplex is breaking even, making money or if it’s something Virginia Beach’s taxpayers still have to keep the lights on for. I’m sure there’s a big chunk of Virginia Beach residents who wish they could turn back the clock (and swap out a few politicians upon returning to 1995) or get a refund check.

But the great facilities provided for tons of youth sports teams in and around Virginia Beach, hosting tons of tournaments, many of which bring in visitors (who then stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, go to movie theaters between soccer games, etc.) and even selling tickets to games might be turning the Sportsplex into a victory.