The game is on at newly opened Bennington Sports Center
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | November 18,2012
BENNINGTON — Bojan “Bo” Vuckovic wanted to find a way to bring soccer camps, coached by team members of the Vermont Voltage soccer team, to Vermont kids year-round, and with the opening for the Bennington Sports Center, he has reached his goal.
Vuckovic bought the former Catamount Elementary School on School Street about a year ago and the sports center opened on Nov. 1.
According to Vuckovic, the Voltage and its players had been hosting soccer camps in the summer for a long time but he thought there was a way to make things better for the kids learning to play as well as team members who did not get a chance to play professionally.
“Realistically, a lot of those players, they graduate from college but some of them don’t get drafted by the major leagues, some of them don’t get picked up by the teams … but they’re still very, very good, but we couldn’t keep them year-round because our program was from May 1 ‘til Sept. 1,” he said.
Vuckovic decided to look for an indoor facility and found the former school, which had been closed at the end of the 2006-07 school year. After doing a lot of work to the interior, the school, now a sports center, was opened for classes.
“We can keep (the players) in our own company, they can play for the team, they can coach the kids and they can do what they love. I think that was the main objective,” Vuckovic said.
The center is running two programs, skills training on Thursday with the coaching staff, and leagues which play soccer games. A men’s league with eight teams also uses the center on Friday. In the future, Vuckovic said he expects to add different tournaments and special classes like strength training.
The classes are divided by age and take place in two-month sessions with the next sessions starting in January and March.
As visitors come into the center, they will see displays showing some of the Voltage’s best players and a list of the awards the team has won. Moving into the hallway, there is a chronological history of the team with Voltage jerseys and team pictures from the team’s founding in 2000 to the present hung on the wall as well as Vuckovic’s award for being inducted into the New England Soccer Hall of Fame.
Among the features at the center are the Fair Play Cafe, the Voltage Lounge, a gift shop and a game room with pool and ping pong tables as well as the kind of video games that require the player to jump, move and be active to play.
The cafe doesn’t serve food yet but includes a large, projection television that shows soccer games. The lounge is a place where parents can wait for their kids while soccer lessons are in session. The cafe recently hosted the Mount Anthony Union High School soccer banquet.
Probably the most important room for the center is the indoor soccer field that was built in the school’s former gymnasium. The field has a turf surface, areas where families can watch their kids play, and entrances that lead to the locker rooms.
Teresa Hutchinson of Bennington was at the center on Saturday, watching Alyssa Hutchinson, who was the only girl on a team of young children.
“I love it. It’s a big change. It keeps (children) very busy and active. They just want to play. They love it,” she said.
Vuckovic said he’s considering uses for the building’s second floor that would fit in with the center’s health theme like a yoga studio or fitness classes.
“When the parents come, instead of sitting in the lounge, maybe Mom can work out or do yoga for an hour, Dad can do something else, while kids are playing,” he said.
The town of Bennington’s cooperation and the way they welcomed the center and worked with Vuckovic was a major factor in bringing it to town, he said. The town is allowing the Voltage, which will run the Bennington recreation center’s soccer program, to use the outdoor field.
More information about the Bennington Sports Center is available by calling 681-7151 or by visiting the website at www.voltagesportsclub.com/Rotator/IndoorCenter.html.