NEWPORT NEWS—It takes vision to look at an abandoned bowling center that has been closed for years and see a sparkling new indoor/outdoor sports complex that is ADA (American Disability Act) compliant because the new owner’s son is in a wheelchair and he wants him to be able to play, too.
But that’s exactly what Al Cousineau has done with a forgotten building located at 630 79th Street in Newport News, behind the Newmarket Square Shopping Center.
“Al was originally looking at building brand new, out toward the IcePlex in York,” said HR SportspleX Program Director Robin Zeman. “Then this building caught his attention and he loved the possibility of making something old, new again. This building actually has more square footage than what he was looking to build. He loved the design of the building, the wings for offices and meeting spaces, other usable spaces, something that was more than just indoor fields.”
When completed, the HR SportspleX will offer more than 30,000 square-feet of indoor space that includes a full-sized turf court, a full-sized hard court, and a center-stage pickleball court. In addition to the main soccer fields that can be halved for “mini kickers” or other sports, the facility will offer a merchandise space, vending and concessions, a TV area for gaming, plus a variety of spaces that can be used by outside groups for meetings or parties.
When the second wing is completed, it will offer a larger kitchen space that can accommodate food for banquets, plus a fitness center where trainers and coaches will be able to do strength training with their athletes.
Behind the complex is a newly opened area that will eventually be used for sand soccer or perhaps volleyball courts. They would like to put in a pavilion that can be used for family reunions or other gatherings, so the groups can meet outside to eat, then everyone can go off to play kickball, baseball, softball, or whatever activity they most enjoy.
“We can accommodate almost any kind of sport here,” said Zeman. “People can have a birthday party here then play whatever sport the birthday person wants, such as kickball, Nerf tag, dodgeball, or just go to the TV area and do some gaming.”
As for leagues and tournaments, the SportspleX will be an ideal setting. In addition to soccer and pickleball leagues, they are looking to bring in different types of sports, such as cornhole, field hockey, wrestling, lacrosse, flag football, volleyball, and even archery. They also intend to offer classes such as yoga, TRX, and sports clinics. “This is a very multi-purpose arena,” said Zeman. “The capability of doing a great tournament here is amazing.”
There is plenty of parking space, too. The paved area outside will be able to accommodate plenty of vehicles, and can also be utilized for events such as craft shows.
But we haven’t even gotten to the best part yet. HR SportspleX has the only internationally sized futsal field on the Virginia Peninsula. Futsal is similar to soccer although there are only four people per side plus two goalies.
“Futsal, traditionally, is only played on a hard surface. So when people say they are playing futsal on turf, internationally, that’s not recognized as futsal,” said Cousineau, who is owner and managing partner of the SportspleX. “Does it matter? The speed of the game is impacted by the floor. If you’re a player and you’re on a hard surface, your decision making has to be faster, your technical skill has to be better, more precise. Everyone in the international community understands that futsal is the foundation of growth for soccer.”
It’s been said that one season of futsal is equivalent to three seasons of outdoor soccer. “If there are only four of you and a goalie on the field, you’re going up the field attacking, then coming back down to defend,” explained Cousineau. “So, there is a lot of decision making in a short time. What triggers in your head during those transitions as to ‘Where do I go in relation to my teammates? How do I interact with them? How do I move?’ If you look at that in relation to soccer, soccer is a bunch of little games inside a bigger game. Wherever the ball lands on the pitch, it’s three people versus whoever is near them at the time. It’s not 11 versus 11 at that point. It’s how well we play in small groups that matters, and futsal teaches that. That’s the science behind it.”
One additional league that will be offered at the SportspleX is near-and-dear to Cousineau’s heart. CP Warriors FC is a program for special needs kids who don’t have the opportunities to walk or run. Once a month, kids with walkers or lightweight wheelchairs pushed by buddies will be able to play soccer against each other, using an oversized ball. “They will score goals. They will cheer. And it will be amazing,” said Cousineau. “With my son being in that community it just makes sense to offer it. It probably makes sense anyway, but the urgency of it when it’s a person close to you is accelerated.”
The new HR SportspleX is scheduled to open in mid- to late- June, depending on the delivery of materials that need to be custom fabricated to bring the facility up to ADA compliance. Rain or shine, it’s always sunny at the PLEX.
For additional information on forming leagues, holding camps, coaching opportunities, and other activities, visit the HR SportspleX website.