Sports for all ages can be found under the dome

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Tolland/Region - posted Thu., Jun. 23, 2011
John Paquette of Manchester and daughter Emily are regulars at Star Hill's Open Soccer Nights during the summer. Photos by Steve Smith.
John Paquette of Manchester and daughter Emily are regulars at Star Hill's Open Soccer Nights during the summer. Photos by Steve Smith.

For athletes of all ages, there are plenty of opportunities for summer recreation, but there aren't too many places where as many activities can be found under one roof as Star Hill Family Athletic Center at the end of Gerber Drive in Tolland.

Summer camps run daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and combine sports and more passive activities inside the air-supported dome.

“We sprinkle in things like team-building exercises,” said operations manager Nick Odell. “We use the dome, as well as the pool, and the kids take a lunch break in the cafe.”

There are also specialty sports camps offered throughout the summer, including soccer and volleyball.

“We're trying to get some other sports in there, too,” said Odell, “such as lacrosse and basketball.”

Soccer teams have been the bread and butter of Star Hill since its inception. Several leagues run year-round, including in the summer.

Open Adult Soccer has been popular since it started on Monday nights about a year ago – attracting men and women of a wide age range. Several recent high school grads play alongside the older set. Players can go at their own speed – hanging back and playing defense or sharpening their ball-control and striking skills on offense.

“It's been going pretty good,” Odell said. “Last year it got more popular towards the middle and end of the summer.”

John Paquette of Manchester has come most Mondays since last summer.

"I come for the exercise and to keep up my game,” he said, adding that at age 54, he's just “happy to still be playing. It's a lot of fun. We get a mixed bag of people here, and there are a lot of young bucks that keep you going.”

Paquette convinced his daughter Emily, a 2007 graduate of Bolton High School who hadn't played soccer previously, to join him on Monday nights.

“I love it,” Emily said. “It's so much fun. It's a good source of exercise.”

“It's great for anybody who loves to play the sport, or anybody to get a little stress relief,” John said, adding that he is a former high school player, and has played in adult leagues, as well.

Odell said a big attraction of Star Hill is that games can take place rain or shine, and several local sports organizations have utilized the facility for that purpose – something he hopes to see more of.

The facility is currently hosting several safe graduation parties, including for Tolland High School, and is looking for other opportunities to partner with community organizations.

“One of the things we offer area leagues and teams is a rainy day location,” he said, adding that for example, Vernon Youth Soccer is holding its tryouts there. “Sometimes we can accommodate someone within a couple of hours. One of the things we want to have here is a community board, to support a lot of things going on in the community,” he said.

Future plans include the addition of outdoor playing surfaces, but Odell said there is no exact time table yet.

For more information, including the latest programs and camp openings, visit the website www.starhillsports.com.


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