Mare Island Sports Complex Up and Running Again

The former soccer fields at the Mare Island Sports Complex were almost as hard as the spelling of Andrew Iskrzycki’s last name.

“It was like walking on concrete,” said Iskrzycki, a Polish-raised Vallejoan and player/coach of a men’s team, Real Marin.

Ah, but thanks to ABC’s hit show, “BattleBots,” two new surfaces of soft-as-a-baby’s-bottom artificial turf awaited soccer players this week with the re-opening of the indoor facility after a two-month hiatus.

“Fantastic,” was the one-word reaction by Shane McAfee, executive director of the Greater Vallejo Recreation District, thrilled that the obsolete fields of 20-plus years were replaced.

Even better, added McAffee, was that the General Fund wasn’t tapped in replacing the fields and other improvements when “BattleBots” took over the complex.

ABC paid $40,000 “plus some deposit money we kept” of the $87,750 cost for renovation, McAffee said, with the difference “paid for from our profit from the previous fiscal year. So the turf was paid for in cash based on actual revenue brought in from the facility.”

The 160-by-80 foot soccer fields, walls, glass, netting, goals and score clocks were removed for the TV show, McAfee said. The basketball/volleyball court on the west end along with the standards were also removed, plus a volleyball court on the northeast side.

One volleyball court, the large basketball court, and the batting cages were untouched.

It was the soccer field, naturally, that opened Iskrzycki’s eyes.

“Excellent. Soft. Beautiful. This is heaven compared to the old one,” he said, taking in the new turf earlier this week in anticipating his team’s return to play Thursday night.

“Before, it was very hard. This is definitely better,” added Iskrzycki, 62, noting that his players were getting antsy.

“After two months, my guys were bugging me. ‘When do we start?’ ‘My belly’s growing,’” Iskrzycki said. “I sent them a picture of it last week. They will love it. It’s nice, fresh.”

Karla Burket, GVRD recreation coordinator, said there are already 22 boys teams and 17 girls teams ready to hit the new field in the winter “when we’re real heavy on soccer” complementing the 15 men’s teams returning.

“We’re really excited,” Burket said of the complex’s re-opening, with an eye on a pending new basketball court surface with available funds.

“We’re really excited about the future with the new turf and additional improvements we want to make,” McAfee said. “The facility really benefits the community, and, in addition, many of the teams and users come from surrounding cities and, hopefully, they’re dropping some money on their way in and out of Vallejo.”

Burket said she hopes the USA women’s World Cup victory against Japan on Sunday would help increase the interest in soccer here.

“Winning the Cup is a really big deal,” McAffee said. “And more colleges are giving women scholarships. It’s a huge opportunity here.”

“This (the complex) is kind of the staple for soccer in the area,” Burket said. “When it rains, they come in.”

If ABC picks up another season of “BattleBots,” it could be right back at Mare Island — but don’t expect anything to be torn apart. Burket said plywood would simply be applied to the turf.

“We should know fairly soon if they’re picking up season two,” Burket said. “If they do, then we’ll sit down and talk again.”