By Michael Regan firstname.lastname@example.org
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — A North Tonawanda sports center is in the process of undergoing a major upgrade after a long-time investor took over majority ownership.
Sportsplex, tucked off the city’s vibrant commercial hub and known for its indoor soccer fields and tennis courts along a quiet cul-de-sac on Ridge Road, has seen better days — a point readily acknowledged by owner Joe Robinson, who during the last several weeks has launched into a ubiquitous overhaul process.
Robinson, a well-respected physical therapist, is pouring thousands into the structure in an effort to reboot what has been a sinking reputation with a dilapidated parking lot and an interior in disrepair.
“Back in the early 1980s this place was hopping,” he said. “Over the past 10 years it slid ... I think anyone in North Tonawanda can attest to that. Now we’re going to revitalize it. We’re putting money back into it and we want to open it up for community events. We want to bring it back.”
In the few short weeks he’s had control, a ramshackle road and parking area filled with divots and stones have been paved, its sweeping indoor tennis courts used as a base for Niagara University teams have been power washed and repainted, along with nearly every inch of the interior, and its soccer field fluffed.
Later this month, Sportsplex will host a televised mixed martial arts fight held by its tenant Victory Mixed Martial Arts and Fitness, and by early October the complex will kick off a bolstered indoor soccer house league program through the Empire United Soccer Academy. A dance studio and an indoor football league both already in place will be expanding their offerings as well.
Robinson, who has links back to the early days of Sportsplex as the head trainer of the now-defunct Buffalo Stallions, a professional soccer team, said it was important that the structure he’s invested his time and money in over the past 30 years rebounds.
He’ll amplify his investments by opening a second location for Greater Buffalo Physical Therapy, with his other location operating out of Amherst for decades.
Barbara Morse, Sportsplex’s general manager, who has worked at the complex since the late 1990s, said the organization will also try to bridge a gap with the North Tonawanda School District, which abuts the facility on Meadow Drive, and has also reached out to city hall.
“We want to be more community-oriented,” she said. “For people to know that we’re here to stay and moving forward.”
Robinson said he has more plans for the future as well. An overgrown field in front of Sportsplex that once served as an outdoor tennis court will likely be turned into a soccer field with lighting. He’s also looking to install a snack bar and obtain a liquor license for events and sports enthusiasts, while he will add personal trainers to his soon-to-open physical therapy office.
“We’re looking at this from the community’s perspective,” he said. “We’re bringing this back to life and hopefully sparking interest again from the people who used to come here as they were growing up.”Need to know: SPORTSPLEX: http://www.sportsplexinc.com/ PHYSICAL THERAPY: http://www.greaterbuffalopt.com/