Group leaders say indoor facility would benefit whole community
The Bethlehem Soccer Club is planning to start raising capital in a few months’ time for its proposed indoor facility at the Soccerplex on Wemple Road.
Building an indoor field has long been a goal of the privately-run club, which pays a premium for some of its teams to use indoor facilities elsewhere in the area. The project is pegged at $3 million, and the club has been working with a consultant for the past few months to develop a business plan for the project and a marketing plan for the fundraising campaign.
All sources of money are on the table, including naming rights and advertising space. Community generosity will be counted on for at least some of the funding, said club President Mark Sweeney.
Our goal is to raise enough money throughout the community…that we have a moderate debt load, he said. `If we don’t raise enough capital to do this project, we will resize it. We don’t want to jam a round peg into a square hole.`
The club first brought its plans to the Town of Bethlehem a year ago, and on Thursday, Feb. 17, presented an updated version to the Development Planning Committee that moved the location of the 87,500-square-foot building to another corner of the site, closest to the corner created by Wemple and the Thruway.
That would better allow for an expansion to the parking area. There are 180 spaces at the Soccerplex now, and the proposal would expand that to 265 and provide a better traffic flow pattern for drop offs.
`Everybody’s congregated in our main parking area,` Sweeney said. `This way everybody can com in, drop off and go find a parking spot.`
Traffic levels and parking plans are likely to see scrutiny from town planners. On busy Saturdays, traffic can snarl on Wemple Road as vehicles come and go from the facility.
Sweeney said the club plans this fall to start Saturday games earlier and end them later, which should relax the traffic issues. That could also contribute to lessening the club’s use of the town’s Elm Avenue Park fields, also a goal for the club.
Along with the expansion of the parking area, the club plans to regrade the entire Soccerplex and rearrange the fields to accommodate the building. If it’s built out as planned, it will eventually have three full-sized outdoor fields, one slightly smaller outdoor field and a full-size indoor field. That indoor space could be quartered using hanging nets.
A small wing of the building would house offices, restrooms and concession sales.
The indoor space wouldn’t be restricted to club users, either. It’s envisioned other adult and youth sports programs` perhaps lacrosse or field hockey ` could rent out the space.
`We all have kids who play more than one sport,` Sweeney said. `It’s good for business aspects but it’s also good for the community.`
The Bethlehem Soccer Club is no stranger to the fiscal impacts of renting at such a facility. Its teams travel to Latham or Clifton Park to use indoor fields, at prices of $170 per hour (which is a discount). Those costs run $50,000 to $75,000 a year.
The club hopes to make enough off of rentals to cover operating costs and debt service for the money it will borrow to build the facility. Still, it hopes to keep rates low and keep the space in use as much as possible, and also avoid turning to members with a fee hike.
Plans have not yet been formally submitted to the town, but if things go well the club wants to have the field up and running by the fall of 2012 so it can be used that winter.
The Bethlehem Soccer Club will be having its yearly general meeting on March 10, which will be open to the public.“