Soccer dome full up

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:29 AM ET

There's no more room at the London Soccer Dome.

As a result, organizers are looking at different solutions so more teams can use it.

The dome is part of the London Optimists Sports Centre near London International Airport. Since buying the property, the Optimists have faced huge growth in their soccer programs.

"We're seriously looking at expanding the facilities. We can't do anything else," said Tom Partalas, director of the dome and a member of the London and District Youth Soccer League executive.

"There's land next to us and right now we're in the process of talking to the owner to see if we can convince him to sell. We're also looking at a permanent structure so we'll be able to operate 12 months of the year. That would allow us to be a multi-purpose facility so we can rent to different groups."

Partalas isn't sure when all this will come to fruition, but the dome's success has made expanding a priority.

"All we have to do is look from this year to last year," he said. "Last year, the Southwest Optimist program registered 740 players. This year, we have 900 and counting. We can't get them all in. We have waiting lists and we're basically telling these kids, 'Sorry, we can't take you.' "

Then there's the LDYSL. Teams for the indoor season were capped at 113.

"We could have gone up to 125, 130," Partalas said. "It's been an overwhelming success. And we have no rentals. The rentals are way, way down, because we have no times left to rent."

Partalas equates the problem to ice time at arenas.

"People are coming in to rent after midnight. It's getting to be worse than hockey. In fact, because the Southwest program went up to 900, to accommodate the kids we had to go start playing at 6 a.m. on Saturday. People don't realize how big soccer is."

The facility operates on weekends from six a.m. until the last rental at night, usually midnight. During weekdays, it's from 5 p.m. until often after midnight.

"We're tight. We have one hour open on Saturday," Partalas said. "We keep it open (for any rescheduled games) but we eventually rent it every week. This is a relief hour. That's about all we have.

"We didn't expect it but we have done very, very well. Our administration is what makes it so successful. The administration of the place hasn't gone past $15,000 a year.

"Whatever money we make now goes into the dome, into the programs, back into the kids. It might go into a building fund . . . but all the profit goes back into making this a better program for the kids."

Rental fees vary from $100 to $150 an hour and Partalas is happy that in its third year, rental fees haven't gone up.


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