For 19 years, Kelly Cragg and his father Don provided Essex County Youth Soccer players an opportunity to play indoor soccer. From the earliest roots of their Team Sports business in Beverly to the more well-known Topsfield Indoor Soccer Arena on the fairgrounds property in the drafty warehouse, countless young players got to play the game.
After taking a year off to pursue locations for his own site, Cragg found an ideal piece of property right off of Route 114 in Danvers — the old Morton Thiokol property (150 Andover St.).
At just over $5.5 million to build, Cragg's new state-of-the-art indoor soccer complex will be called The Danvers Sports Arena. The 74,000-square-foot building and complex will take up approximately seven acres of land and be open for business in mid-December.
The building will house four fields — two big fields at 180 feet-by-95 feet and two small fields at 145 feet-by-75 feet. That's double the amount of fields when Cragg was in Topsfield.
Some of the other features will include the ability to comfortably seat spectators 12 months of a year with a top-flight heating and air conditioning system (something that was not available in Topsfield); turf technologies on the fields themselves, and the fact the building is designed specifically for soccer — a feature that is not true with the other local indoor soccer arenas.
"There was an immediate need to have a state-of-the-art facility, something the North Shore does not have," Cragg said. "The rest of the nation has been able to stay pretty much up to speed with new floor technologies, but we will be the first (complex) outside of the Route 128 belt to provide the soccer community, the field hockey community and the lacrosse community with a building specifically for (those sports') uses.
"As far as the quickest impact, this (complex) will be getting the soccer community up to speed with the newest technologies. (Another) bigger impact is our facility will be keeping youth soccer going 12 months a year. If kids want to compete with other areas of the country, they need to go 12 months a year — and we'll be able to.
"This facility, we think, will give the soccer community something to be proud of."
Cragg hopes the more central location of Danvers will better service all of Essex County.
"We looked at finding a piece of property that was more centrally located to serve our market area — all of Essex County Youth Soccer," said Cragg, who in Topsfield primarily fielded teams from Danvers, Topsfield, Boxford, Peabody, Andover and North Andover. "Being here in Danvers, people from Saugus, Lynn, Swampscott can get here a little easier compared to the last location."
Cragg also hopes to expand in other capacities such as running coaching clinics and other training sessions, as well throwing in a strength and agility component down the road.
Having gone to look at several other newer indoor arenas around New England as well as Virginia, Cragg hopes to make his business more efficient in the way that it is operated as well. But most importantly, with more space Cragg can accommodate more teams with the hope to provide a facility for any team or player that would like to play indoor soccer in Essex County.
"The hardest part for me (in Topsfield) was turning teams away," Cragg said. "When I did scheduling in the past I bent over backwards to let every kid that wanted to play play, often overbooking leagues. But this new facility will provide the soccer community with the potential for virtually every kid that wants to play in January, which is my immediate goal."