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By John Streit, The Virginian-Pilot - 8/13/2009

Hometown Sports Management and youth soccer club Virginia Rush recently announced a partnership that makes the Virginia Beach Sportsplex the permanent home for Rush’s player development academy and corporate operations.

It also means artificial turf will replace natural grass at the stadium in the coming weeks.

The partnership is the most significant struck by Hometown Sports Management since May, when the company’s contract to operate the revenue-depleting Sportsplex for the city began.

Along with the Rush moving its offices to the Landstown facility, the club is also the chief investor in the installation of the Sportexe artificial turf surface at the multi-use stadium.

Financed entirely by private investors through Hometown Sports, the resurfacing of the field costs roughly $750,000.

For Rush, which currently has an enrollment of more than 4,000 youth soccer players from across the region, moving operations to the Sportsplex and investing in its improvement was a natural fit, according to president David Dengerink.

“Our biggest need was for training space during the weekdays,” Dengerink said. “So from Monday through Thursday, we’ll be out there year-round.”

It also satisfies the city’s and Hometown Sport’s need to have people use the venue daily, he said.

“For us, it’s the beginning of having more of a Europeanstyle training center,” Dengerink said.

Hometown Sports President Chuck Thornton said the addition of Rush as tenants brings the city a step closer its original vision of the Sportsplex being a bustling, regional sports destination.

“This isn’t going to be a soccer-only stadium, it’s going to take multiple sports to make this a year-round facility,” said Thornton, who also owns the nearby Hometown Heroes sports-themed bar and grill. “Having that turf out there means we can use it from January through December.”

By partnering with Hometown Sports Management, Rush joins the Virginia Beach Mustangs Pop Warner football organization, Virginia Beach Public Schools, the Norfolk Blues rugby club, the Southeastern Trojans semiprofessional football club and the Hampton Roads Piranhas soccer organization.

While the Sportsplex’s new look is hoped to be a cash-producer, the facility has gained a reputation for being one of the city’s money pits.

According to Councilman Glenn Davis, the city’s liaison to the project, maintenance of the Sportsplex cost city taxpayers roughly $450,000 annually.

So the project received strong support when Hometown Sports Management – then known as Princess Anne Athletic Development – approached the city with its plans to upgrade the Sportsplex without using public dollars. City Council approved the project in February.

“The Sportsplex was always meant to be the premier athletic facility in the region, and under this new partnership, this really will become the premier facility,” Davis said. “This is probably one of the best deals the city has ever undertaken.”

Princess Anne Athletic Development was the original partnership between Thornton and a Fredericksburg-based investment group that planned on building a 166,000 square-foot field house, add a 50,000 square-foot retail center and upgrade the U.S. Field Hockey National Training Center and the Sportsplex for a proposed $20.4 million.

However, the sides split before the project received city approval. Thornton created Hometown Sports Management to upgrade and operate the Sportsplex while the Fredericksburg investors will finance the field house, on which construction is scheduled to begin in October.

The retail center project and improvements to the National Training Center – both part of Hometown Sport’s five-year plan for the Sportsplex – have been suspended until the economy improves, according to project spokesman Brian Kirwin.


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