Soccer Inside Out

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's called indoor soccer, but it's played outdoors. It's called a stadium, but there is not much room for spectators.

The fledgling sport, which has proven popular in other cities as a recreational league activity, is coming to Camarillo. After dealing with concerns from neighbors, the City Council on Wednesday night approved an open-air, lighted tournament soccer facility off Camarillo Springs Road, south of the Ventura 101.

"Visualize a hockey arena with dasher boards on the sides," said Steve Genovese, a co-partner in Kalifornia Indoor Soccer Stadiums (KISS). "And then imagine those dasher boards 4 feet high around the perimeter and on the curves, and 8 feet high plexiglass boards. The goal boards will rise to 10 feet high and the field itself is 185 feet long by 85 feet wide."

With six players on each side, Genovese said, it's a fast-paced and exciting game.

"It's similar to a racquetball game where you can take shots off the sideboards or use the board as a teammate," Genovese said. He and his partners, including developer Ventura Pacific Capital, plan to break ground within the next few weeks. Weather permitting, the soccer field will open in late March or early April.

The tournament soccer facility will be approximately 10 feet below the grade of Camarillo Springs Road. It will be surrounded by limited seating and landscaping--the facility is designed for players rather than spectators.

The concept has had its share of opposition. The Miramonte Homeowners Assn. filed an appeal with the city after the Planning Commission approved the facility, at the southwest corner of Ridge View Street and Camarillo Springs Road.

KISS and Ventura Pacific Capital officials met with the homeowners association Monday, and it appears the fears about noise, traffic and land use have been allayed.

"We answered all of the homeowners' questions and tried to ease some of the apprehensiveness," Genovese said. "Once we're in, they'll realize we're not going to be as noisy or create as much traffic problems as they thought."

The City Council voted unanimously in favor of the project, with some modifications, Wednesday evening, said City Manager Bill Little. The facility will close by 10 p.m., one hour earlier than originally planned.

"This is with the understanding that in a couple of months the Planning Commission will go back and look at it and see if there is noise or other problems being created at night," Little said. "The hours will then either be expanded or reduced further."

KISS is also responsible for removing the structures in the event the stadium is abandoned, or the city will remove it and bill the owners, Little said.

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But Genovese doesn't anticipate a shutdown. In fact, he has plans for another indoor soccer facility for Simi Valley in 1998.

The hybrid sport has proven popular at other sites in the state.

An indoor soccer center opened in Santa Clarita two years ago. In less than a year, developer Scott Schauer's recreational soccer center was drawing an estimated 2,500 players of all ages each week.

Genovese said the success of the Santa Clarita center served as further inspiration, but he adds that he and partner Tom Brady were assembling plans for their facility when Schauer beat them to the punch.

Genovese and Brady are Los Angeles County firefighters. Genovese got interested in the sport when his children started playing. Before he knew it, he said, he had put in 12 years of coaching his children's teams.

Success of the Continental Indoor Soccer League teams, especially the San Diego Sockers and the Anaheim Splash, has renewed spectator interest in arena soccer.

Indoor soccer's roots go back to the creation of the Major Indoor Soccer League in 1978. But the league competed for arena space with hockey and basketball teams, folding 10 years later.

Leagues for the Camarillo facility will be set up according to ability, gender and age. Genovese anticipates that 60% to 70% of the players will be adults. Saturdays and evenings have been slotted for adults, and afternoons and Sundays for younger players.

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Genovese said he has more than 30 leagues set up, ranging from coed to an over-40 division. He said teams will be matched according to ability.

Also, a person can sign on as a free agent and be placed with a team. The initial season is slated for one practice and eight games at a cost of $600 per team for the season. A one-time membership fee of $10 per player covers photo identification costs.

For information about playing or signing up for a team, call (800) 979-1910.

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