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Published: Wednesday, 12/27/2006

Operators get a kick out of facility

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Perrysburg resident Ken Ernsberger said he never really played soccer growing up and didn't know much about the sport.

But he and his wife, Sally, recently completed a 78,000-square-foot facility in Rossford called Gold Medal Indoor Sports that is used primarily by indoor soccer enthusiasts in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

They said they decided to build the facility based on research, advice from friends, and $3.5 million.

Gold Medal, at 10020 South Compass Dr. in Rossford, near Fremont Pike in Perrysburg Township, opened in late October and held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last month.

The facility hosts leagues for indoor soccer, flag football, volleyball, lacrosse, and futsal, which is a form of soccer played with a ball that doesn't bounce.

Mr. Ernsberger, 49, an international airline pilot for US Airways, said he was interested in building an indoor baseball training facility for his younger son, Alex, about five years ago.

Through his travels as a pilot, Mr. Ernsberger was able to visit the kinds of baseball complexes he had in mind and realized all of them were experiencing some sort of financial trouble.

Mr. Ernsberger discussed his findings with Perrysburg High School boys soccer coach Mike Timbrook, who flew with him when both were pilots for the Ohio Air National Guard.

Mr. Timbrook told him to build an indoor soccer complex near Perrysburg and soccer players in the area would fill it for him.

The Ernsbergers then contacted Jim Cline, who is based in Columbus and has helped construct other U.S. indoor soccer facilities, to set up a business plan for them to follow.

The couple hired Rudolph Libbe Inc. as its general contractor and began the $3.5 million project in April.

"People want to play games, not just do this practice stuff," Mr. Ernsberger said. "That's why soccer works in facilities like ours and baseball doesn't.

"It's unfortunate we couldn't make baseball work, but it's important to me to have a venue for kids to play at and have fun."

Gold Medal consists of three 80-foot by 180-foot soccer fields with boards on all sides and synthetic turf. There is also a smaller, 50-foot-by-80-foot soccer field and a volleyball court.

The building also has a concession stand with beer for sale, a pro shop, meeting room, game room, and wireless Internet capabilities.

Mr. Ernsberger said the facility can accommodate up to 750 athletic teams during an eight-week session.

"We are both gone from 10 to 12 days a month," Mr. Ernsberger said. "When we're not flying, we're here. And when we are gone, we're on the Internet doing research.

"This is a 30-day-a-month job, and we want to make sure we get off on the right foot."

Arnold Zirkes, who is in charge of day-to-day operations as Gold Medal's general manager, wouldn't disclose how many teams and leagues the facility hosted during its first session.

But he said the building is "doubling to tripling" the count of teams and leagues it will host in its second session, which is set to begin in early January.

Mr. Zirkes also said there is an obvious indicator of the Ernsbergers' long-term commitment to their new business.

"Putting the crushed stone underneath the main fields shows we're serious," he said. "If we weren't, we could've used concrete for the whole thing and sold this place as a warehouse if it didn't work out."

Some soccer players have chosen to play at Gold Medal for different reasons.

Andy Hotz, a sophomore who plays soccer for Rossford, said the proximity of the building to his home convinced him to participate in indoor soccer for the first time in three years.

David Laginess, who recently finished his senior soccer season at St. Mary's Catholic Central in Monroe, said Gold Medal is nicer, bigger, and less crowded than other facilities and is worth the 30-minute drive from where he lives.

"I'm done playing high school soccer, but this place gives me a way to stay in shape and have some fun," Mr. Laginess said.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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