âThank goodness it’s back. I was about to go crazy.
Katya Robinson summed up the sentiment shared by Sonoma County adult soccer players who were excited to return to play at the Sports City indoor arena inside Epicenter Sports and Entertainment after it reopened on June 15.
Sidelined by pandemic public health orders since March 2020, the players have missed the exercise and scramble of the competition, but more than anything they have deeply felt the loss of their tight community.
âIt’s amazing to be back. It’s a whole different family that you didn’t have access to, âsaid Robinson, 40, her blonde ponytail still wet with sweat after a game on Thursday.
For Robinson, a local athletic champion and acclaimed special education teacher – she was honored as one of California’s Teacher of the Year for 2020 – the Epicenter arena and its familiar faces represent a haven.
âWhen I lost my home in 2017 (due to forest fires), I had this home away from home to come to. Then after COVID, I didn’t. “
Her boyfriend, Jonathan Jackson, was also playing Thursday night and “really missed it”, she said.
âEveryone smiles so much and hangs out for hours after games,â she said. âSome people have fallen into a deep depression. We had a hard time reconnecting because we didn’t know what to say to each other. We were usually talking about games. We were like ‘Uh, did you watch that TV show?’ “
Former team members immediately signed up to join the leagues and invaded the facility and its three fields on opening day.
“Football is our predominant sport,” said Sports City manager Nate Peters. âYou hold your breath because you really don’t know if they’re going to come back. We had to hire and train staff and rethink our procedures around the opening of state, even though we had no money coming in. We sent emails and Brad (Bergum, Epicenter spokesperson) posted all over social media.
âPeople had closed for 15 months. It was kind of like a big reunion, âsaid Peters, from Santa Rosa.
The facility also has space for other team and individual sports including volleyball, bowling and martial arts, as well as the Rockin ‘Jump Trampoline Park, Delta Strike Laser Tag arena, the Omni virtual reality arena, the interactive SD Dark Ride theater and Anytime Fitness.
During the pandemic, Epicenter, which opened in 2016, was closed except for outdoor dining and take-out. He opened the new local Piner & Coffey cafe and reopened the Victory House Sports restaurant and cafes in the bowling and football areas as well as over 100 arcade games at Game On Arcade.
“When we weren’t fully open yet, they (the footballers) were so grateful when we would organize matches without spectators and allow a maximum of 16 people and make them wear masks,” said Christina Hamner, a sports supervisor. City.
She said some of the athletes mentioned that they had gained weight and needed conditioning. As it stands, many players have requested replacements much earlier than before, Robinson said.
âWe just had a small group playing collecting games,â said Jackson, 40, and a commercial fisherman.
Returning to the pitch is “not easy at 40,” he said, leaving the pitch and removing layers of protection from his legs. “My calf is so tight I can’t feel it now.”
He compared going out to see other adults after the pandemic to the period after âthe first three or four years when you have kids and you can’t go out muchâ.
Many players manage and play in multiple teams. Robinson said she plays every day and manages three teams, including mixed teams.
The âfamilyâ of the indoor football league, like its brethren around the world, closely follows the latest international and club competitions. They recently gathered at Victory House to watch big-screen games of Euro 2020, the quadrennial tournament for Europe that was postponed last year.
âIt’s a real community,â said player Allison Gray, 56. âWe play with each other, we play against each other. I was so excited when I found out it was safe to come back and play.
She recounted how so many players started donating money and supplies to families who lost their homes and belongings in the 2017 firestorm that Sports City took it back and opened it up to everyone. those who needed it.
âThis is an example of the generosity of these ladies,â Gray said.
Years ago, when indoor soccer first started locally, she said she was managing six teams at a time. “Now I can just show up and play” on three teams, she said.
Before the pandemic, there were 230 teams of adults across multiple grades and age levels, she said.
âOnce more people realize it’s back and safe, there will be a lot more people,â Gray predicted.
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