Loss of gym use trips up Steamboat’s indoor soccer league
November 5, 2012
Steamboat Springs — The adult indoor soccer league hosted annually by the city of Steamboat Springs’ Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department is fast, intense and fun, Ben Beall explained.
"Winter can get long and it's nice to run around a bit with good friends," said Beall, an avid player as well as a youth soccer coach.
He's played in the league since he was 16, and after taking a few years off during college, it has remained a fixture of his winters.
"The league is a fantastic amenity to have as a soccer player and coach," he said Monday.
That's what spurred him to action recently when he learned the league was being ousted from its long-time home at Steamboat Springs Middle School, and perhaps from the Parks and Recreation Department’s offerings all together.
Beall put together an online petition, hoping to gather enough support to convince the school to reconsider its decision to end its association with adult indoor soccer. The petition had 75 signatures as of Monday afternoon.
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"We're trying to work together," he said. "It's not a fight. It's a 'How can we cooperatively figure it out? How can the community continue to be served by a school district we all support and want to see succeed?'"
Middle school Principal Tim Bishop also said it's not a fight, and that there's no room to compromise.
He said the league has long been a headache for the school and that the decision to boot it from the gym came only after repeated warnings and pleas for better behavior.
"Indoor soccer is beating up that gym pretty good," Bishop said. "We talked to them the last five years and said we'd like to phase them out because our gym is getting torn up by this activity.
"We find alcohol bottles in the bleachers. We've had to use video cameras to see what happened sometimes because adults got into fist fights. We've had to worry about that along with the floors and the gym walls being abused because of how hard the game is."
Parks and Rec Director Chris Wilson said there is an ongoing conversation with the school district about the league, but he wouldn't comment further about its future.
"We're in the midst of a lot of discussion in regards to this program so we really have no comment," Wilson said Monday evening. "We're having conversations with the school district and that's really all we can say."
Bishop said the school recently invested $20,000 in the facility, adding new lights, a new floor and new mats, and that indoor soccer wasn't compatible with those upgrades.
"We have given them so many chances and opportunities to treat our facility with respect and to not have it abused," he said. "Once we put in this additional money for the upgrades, it was not a difficult decision."
Bishop said the issues with the adult soccer league have been the subject of repeated conversations with Parks and Rec officials over the past few years. He also said the time that was once allotted to the indoor league has already been divvied out to other user groups.
The school, however, hasn’t disassociated itself from the city’s Parks and Rec Department. It still will host games for an adult volleyball league. It also will continue to play host to other soccer activities, allowing indoor youth clinics there this winter.
But Bishop said the adult indoor soccer league is finished.
"We have been talking for at least five years about this issue," he said. "Every year we say, “OK, be better next year; OK, next year; OK, next year.” Finally next year came and with as much money as we put into that gym to make it nice for basketball, volleyball and for our kids, we had to do it."
Beall said he was unaware there were so many problems, and he didn’t know that the league has gone through the past several seasons with any sort of ultimatum. He said he's heard stories of booze at games but has not seen it, and that fights are the result of a few troublemakers and aren't indicative of how the league as a whole conducts itself.
"There have been a few isolated instances where a few people have gotten into altercations, but to punish an entire community for a few people? We did, a year or two ago, hear about making sure you don't wear the wrong kind of shoes with soles that mark up the floor and we all made a concerted effort to make sure we had proper footwear," he said. "There are very few people more involved in soccer in the community than I am, and I haven't heard in the last five years these dire threats that we wouldn't have the league.
"Could we do things different in terms of how the league is structured? For it just to be, ‘Nope, you're not using the gym,’ that's rough."