Here is my latest column for the Sedalia Democrat; someone messed up and they didn’t publish the Opinion page in the Weekend Edition (reprinted the food page from the previous day), so print readers still haven’t seen it.
The season may have ended early, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a success and a sign of a positive future.
A leak in the roof over the Sedalia Community Center’s gymnasium forced the Paul Klover Soccer Association to cancel the balance of its inaugural futsal season, leaving nearly 200 soccer players in divisions from U6 to adults disappointed. A couple of youth divisions will play a couple more games each over the next week or so to draw their match totals closer to those other teams met, but after that most players will have to wait until the fall to get back in the game.
Futsal is a game much like soccer, only it is played indoors on a field about the size of a basketball court. Each team has five players on the floor at a time, one of them a goal keeper. Adam Braverman, treasurer for PKSA and head of the futsal committee, said the game requires more skill than standard indoor soccer, and helps players better develop footwork for the outdoor game.
PKSA had been offering indoor soccer leagues at the Mathewson Exhibition Center since the early 1990s, renting the facility through all of December and January – a fairly expensive undertaking. Over the years, Braverman said, the turf field became worn and started pulling away from the wall boards. There were hopes that state funding would help pay for a replacement, but with Missouri’s current economic climate, “that is not a priority any longer,” he said.
Searching for an alternative indoor venue, PKSA board members turned to Sedalia city officials for some guidance. The Sedalia Community Center, 314 S. Washington St., was the answer.
“We have a great relationship with the city and we have had a phenomenal relationship with the parks department, so it was nice to make the transition and to partner with the city,” said Amanda Blackburn, PKSA’s board president.
But landing a venue wasn’t the only hurdle. Indoor soccer had become a tradition, and futsal is a significantly different game. As Braverman pointed out, the game not only is played on a smaller field without walls, with fewer players and on a different surface, but there also is a futsal-specific ball, made to reduce bouncing to keep it on ground as much as possible. But as the old saying goes, change is good.
“We are really happy with number of people who took the plunge with us,” Braverman said. “We feared losing half of our indoor participants in the change, but our numbers are down just 9 percent.”
Blackburn said board members “were worried if (players and parents) would like it. The first few games took some adjustment, but as the season progressed we saw a lot of improvement in play. The feedback has been great, and the kids love it.”
But early in February, PKSA official Judge Paul Beard showed up at the community center and discovered water from a roof leak covering the gym floor, forcing all of that day’s games to be cancelled. The next day was the ice storm that paralyzed the area, and games again were called off. Braverman said no games have been played since then, and last week the decision was made to cut the season short except for the handful of matches for the younger players.
John Simmons, Sedalia’s community development director, said the severity of the roof problem remains an unknown.
“We have not been able to get a contractor up there with all of the ice and snow to figure out where (the leak) is occurring,” he said. “When that ice and snow sits up there then melts, the water travels in strange pathways. A leak on the interior might be 20 feet in other direction.”
The city has a maintenance schedule for all of its buildings, and the community center is slated for a roof replacement but not in the current budget. Simmons said the leak will be repaired as soon as possible and consideration will be given to moving up the roof replacement.
“When these things happen, it changes their schedule,” he said. “These ice events confound us with these flat roofs. You never know which one will demand your attention.”
Simmons is disappointed that the leak caused PKSA to cut its futsal season short.
“We’re sorry this happened, it’s one of those unexpected things,” he said. “It is so unfortunate; they were so excited to use the facility. For their future season, it will be in good shape for use again.”
That is good news for the Paul Klover board, the players and parents – but Braverman and Blackburn said PKSA is “exploring all of our options,” including looking into working with supporters to build its own facility. The positive reaction to futsal is one of the key motivating factors.
“We couldn’t have hoped for any better reviews and the most exciting part is the kids and their ability to track the ball, control the ball, and do those things a lot more smoothly than they could when we started,” Blackburn said.
When word got out that the season was over, “the kids were devastated,” she said. But parents were understanding, and Blackburn has received dozens of Facebook messages asking if futsal will be offered again next winter. A return to the community center is not out of the question.
“You can see there have been some leaks over the years, but this one is right over the floor,” Blackburn said. “It obviously needs some work, it is an old facility. But the safety of the players is most important. … (Ending the season early) was tough to stomach at first … but all in all, it has been OK.”