Two Exeter Township businesses committed to sports and fitness are partnering to meet a demand in the township for an indoor sports training facility.

Valhalla Health and Fitness Club and The Hillcrest Racquet Club are joining forces to form the Exeter Fieldhouse and Athletic Training Center, an indoor sports complex designed for athletic training and recreational sporting events. The new complex is slated to open to the public in mid to late September.

According to Erick Hardwick, Director of Valhalla Health and Fitness Club, demand is a big driver of the project.

'Several sports leagues in our immediate local area are tired of being forced to travel out of the township for facilities. Also, at Valhalla we had a need for space to do team training. We needed an indoor facility and we were limited with what we had here. And third, several team coaches need indoor spaces to rent out during the colder months - to know they would have a place to practice,' Hardwick said. 'We heard the demands loud and clear and then we went looking.'

The partnership with Hillcrest was 'Plan A,' according to Hardwick. 'We reached out to the owners of Hillcrest and proposed it and got their thoughts on it. They thought it was a good idea,' he said. 'Plan B was for another space in the local area, but the first option worked out and we started moving forward.'

Exeter Fieldhouse and Athletic Training Center will be housed on the property of Hillcrest Racquet Club, making use of the heated bubble that currently houses four clay tennis courts. It will be managed by Valhalla.

The new facility will be a 17,500 square foot synthetic grass turf field with seating for spectators, and according to Hardwick, the field dimensions of the new facility will be the largest of indoor turf fields in the Reading area.

The facility will offer speed, agility and strength team training, space for soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and flag football sports leagues and tournaments, sports camps/clinics and field rental. As part of the speed, agility and strength training, specialized tennis fitness training will also be available.

Hardwick said a timeline for the project is being finalized, but one of the first things they'll be doing is making some additional parking spaces available, and doing some work to the reception area. The tennis courts are in use this summer, so groundbreaking for the turf is expected in late August.

'In the bubble itself, we will need to prep the ground for the turf, lay the turf down and install board and netting along with new lighting and a seating area for spectators. The turf doesn't take long to lay – it's really more the other stuff.'

The project is expected to cost between $200,000 and $250,000. Hardwick said that's a relatively inexpensive amount, and he credits that to the fact that the structure is already in place. And Hardwick said some rentals have already been booked for fall, winter and early spring.

'The niche is really in people wanting to rent space for training,' he added. 'The first fall/winter will be limited to soccer, which has the highest demand. There is demand for field hockey and lacrosse – but the demand is more of an unknown at this point. We know we can fill soccer.'

In addition to the facility itself, a light fare menu of food and beverages will be served in the current kitchen/bar area of the clubhouse at Hillcrest. Operated in partnership with Valhalla's Loki's Lair Cafe, Hillcrest will soon be able to offer their members a range of menu options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

'A lot of things from our perspective make it a win/win situation. We're really excited about being able to do this joint venture and cater to the demand that is there. People have been talking about this for years,' Hardwick added. 'It's a great project that serves a purpose and the community is looking forward to it. I'm excited for the kids; they're excited too when they hear about.'

The website for the Exeter Fieldhouse is currently in its development stages. In the meantime, Hardwick can be reached at 610-779-6006, or to answer questions about the project.

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