Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 1
Get your kicksSanta Maria Town Center is set to kick off the summer with a new indoor soccer arena
BY KRISTINA SEWELL
The best of things usually start as a notion that becomes a dream, an idea that becomes reality. For business partners Jose Cerros and Dave Eckenrode, it took determination, unwavering faith, and vision to bring their dream of an indoor soccer arena to life.
Still under construction on the second floor of the Santa Maria Town Center, Kickers Arena is enclosed in a 10,000-square-foot space. Equipped with two fields—one for adults and one for kids—the arena will also boast convenient changing rooms and showers when finished.
Scheduled to be up and running by mid-May, the indoor soccer arena began as a dream for Eckenrode and soccer enthusiast Cerros five years ago.
“Jose wanted to build a business, and I know business,” Eckenrode said.
Eckenrode, owner of KT’s Gymnastics (also located in the mall), opted to build a soccer arena in part due to the increasing popularity of the sport.
“Soccer is different from any other sport; it crosses race, gender, and socioeconomic status,” Eckenrode said. “It’s a universal sport anyone can play.”
Initially investing $100,000 into the project and working with local contractors, Cerros and Eckenrode wanted to provide a place for people to play soccer indoors. While most indoor soccer arenas are made with turf, the arena at the mall will use a hard, plastic-like tile with absorbent shock pads underneath.
“It’s the same material used on futsal (indoor soccer) floors,” Cerros said. “Its more sanitary and easier to clean.”
Cerros said the arena will be used strictly for soccer, but eventually they’d like to incorporate such other sports as volleyball, tennis, and indoor football.
Indoor soccer, a branch of one of the largest and fastest growing sports in America, is played with special shoes and a not-so-bouncy ball. Cerros said the arena will work with six players and, like futsal, the ball never goes out of bounds; the arena is bound by walls similar to hockey.
Eckenrode said their vision didn’t come without some speed bumps.
“The mall was helping fund the project, and the funding ran out,” he said. “So we experienced a 14-month hiatus from construction.”
But things took off once again after Eckenrode and Cerros met with bankers from Goldman Sachs, an East Coast bank. After presenting their vision for an indoor arena, Goldman Sachs saw the potential and agreed to help with funding; construction started back up three months ago.
Cerros said the project is looking even more promising now that a big sponsorship has come through.
“Pepsi has agreed to sponsor the arena for five years,” Cerros said. “They only took three weeks to decide.”
With a majority of the framework complete, Cerros and Eckenrode’s anticipation is mounting; for these business partners, completion of the project promises many benefits to the mall and the community at large.
Eckenrode and Cerros said that while the popularity of soccer is growing, that enthusiasm is causing overcrowding at local fields.
“Every field around Santa Maria is packed,” Eckenrode said. “People are fighting for fields.”
The new arena is expected to relieve some overcrowding; Cerros added that field use during the winter months is limited by inclement weather and lack of lighting.
“With the arena, people can play soccer year round at a price comparable to the YMCA,” he explained.
Eckenrode said the arena would also be a safer place for kids to play and would offer more available parking space.
In the grand scheme of things, the new arena fits in perfectly with the renovation plans of the mall; the second floor is being geared more toward recreation and entertainment while the first floor will be used for retail and restaurants. According to Amber Lease, assistant property manager and public relations director for the Santa Maria Town Center, the overarching idea is to make the mall the hub of Santa Maria.
“We feel these sports facilities will bring families together and pull for a stronger downtown,” she said.
In addition to Kickers Arena, the mall has added a martial arts studio, skate park, dance studio, and gymnastics gym. Lease said future recreation plans include a bowling alley and indoor batting cage.
Centralization and a love of Santa Maria were the driving forces behind Cerros and Eckenrode’s vision.
“On a large scale, we did this for an altruistic purpose: to rebuild the inner structure of Santa Maria,” Eckenrode said. “Santa Maria is very decentralized; we leave here to find entertainment elsewhere.”
Eckenrode said the owners of the Town Center shared their vision, and aside from providing a safe and fun source of recreation for kids and families, the indoor soccer arena will also bring business back to Santa Maria. Bringing business also means bringing much-needed money.
“We’re in the ‘if you build it, they will come’ business,” Eckenrode remarked with a laugh.
“We know this will work because we’re the only arena from here to Monterey County,” Cerros added.
Once the arena is up and running, Cerros said they’ll begin offering basic skills classes for kids, as well as create an open league with the hopes of eventually playing host to tournaments. They would eventually like to add a concession booth to the arena as well.
Eckenrode shared that in the future, they plan to hold televised pay-per-view matches of World Cup games, UFC fights, and boxing. The recreation pioneers also shared their plans for possible expansion, revealing that they’re already looking into opening another facility and possibly starting a chain of indoor soccer arenas; for now, they’re excited to see how Kickers Arena takes off.
For Cerros and Eckenrode, there’s no doubt as to the promise and potential of their nearly complete vision, guaranteed to benefit the Santa Maria community and soccer lovers near and far.
“We live in a beautiful area, but are leaving here to go do things,” Eckenrode said. “I truly love this town and want to bring the center back to it.”
Staff Writer Kristina Sewell only plays soccer with her dog. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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