NEWPORT NEWS—Even though they’ve been open for almost a year now, Al Cousineau, managing partner of HR SportspleX in Newport News, is still surprised when people tell him they didn’t know the place existed.
“Having a successful launch and realizing the dream of putting a sportsplex with the questions behind that being, ‘Will there be a need for it? Will we have enough business to drive it and make it a success?’ And there is no doubt so far, we can unequivocally answer, ‘Yes!’ We’ve become part of the community,” said Cousineau. “But as an owner/operator, one of the only things, with the amount of advertising we’ve done, is how many people still don’t know about us. Birthday parties have really been a launching pad for that because kids can come in and bring twenty of their friends, and families that are here for someone else’s function are starting to realize we do exist.”
Otherwise, Cousineau is pleased with what they have built and the success they have enjoyed. They created a year-round soccer program using professional coaches and college players to teach kid’s soccer in an indoor space. According to Cousineau, that program went from about 10 to 15 kids to more than 100 overnight.
But there’s more to the HR SportspleX than indoor soccer. They are currently focusing on a 10-week summer camp where parents can drop their kids off and they can play dodgeball, spike ball, pickleball, basketball, and Mega Dodgeball, in addition to soccer. The facility has also added a batting cage so local schools and leagues can come in and practice a variety of different stations, including fielding ground balls and turning double plays. Another new activity is archery tag, called Dodge Bow, that uses Nerf arrows.They also put in a 1,000-watt sound system, so if you want to rock out while you’re playing, you can.
“It’s gone from the dream to a reality, but I would say we’re on our way,” said Cousineau. “Getting yourself on the map is step one. Actually getting people in the building is step two. The soccer community knows about us. Now it’s just a matter of other sports like baseball, lacrosse, football, and others to use our facility for practices.”
The next phase of the SportsPleX’s evolution will be to build out the area behind the complex to add some additional field space.
“To start, we’re potentially thinking of adding an outdoor pickleball space,” said Cousineau. “We started doing beginner clinics every month to month-and-a-half with some established pickballers. We’re doing our first youth clinic on May 22. I think pickleball is growing as a sport and will continue to do so.”
With all the success the center has enjoyed, Cousineau is most proud about the growth of the CP Warriors program, which is for special needs athletes, including Cousineau’s son.
“We do that the third Saturday of every month, and it has steadily grown each and every month,” said Cousineau. “Wheelchair-bound kids can experience the thrill of scoring a goal, even though it’s parent-assisted. We also added T-ball where they hit the ball off the tee, then the parents push them around the bases, and they can score a homerun. Any parent with a special needs mobility child can participate and it’s still 100 percent free. We did an Easter egg hunt last time and that’s the kind of thing you can’t put a price tag on. It makes you feel good being a part of it.”
Coming up on their one-year anniversary, the team at HR SportspleX is making plans to celebrate.
“I say that we opened at the end of July, so we have another couple of months before we officially have been open a year,” said Cousineau. “We’ve had a lot of support and people have been impressed when they come to the building and see the final product. But the one-year anniversary is going to be a big one and I think we’re going to offer some kind of family free play day, as one of our celebration events, where people can come in and play anything they want for free. It’s a unique thing to have such a large space, but as long as the kids are safe, I say let them have as much fun as possible.”
For additional information on HR SportspleX and the programs it offers, visit its website. HR SportspleX is located at 630 79th St. in Newport News.