DAN ANGELO | WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2023 | Originally featured on The Helm Sandusky
Just months after the Cedar Point Sports Center opened, the pandemic shut down just about everything.
Hard work by dedicated staff and close cooperation with state and local health departments helped the facility make it through the crisis and set it on a path that has steadily moved forward in the two years since.
“Our work with the health departments, locally and with the state, allowed us to keep some events alive that might not have been hosted in surrounding states and communities,” says Justin Kijowski, general manager of the indoor facility. “When we were able to work with the health departments to host those, that helped lead into last year and this year where our numbers have just exploded.”
The center, which is operated by a different group than the outdoor facility, has or will host about 35 weekend tournaments this year, which can bring thousands of athletes and their families into the area for each event. In addition, the weekend tournament calendar is full through 2025, with a full slate of programming for the weekdays.
“If you look at our schedule, we are always closed in August to do some resurfacing and to refresh the building,” Kijowski says. “Part of that is our seasonality just doesn’t lend itself to August participation, especially in Ohio where we know football is king and everybody is going back to their school sports.”
The rest of the year, the facility is actively hosting travel and club team tournaments, scholastic events, and other forms of competition. Those include dance, cheer and twirl contests, along with a food show known as the Best of the Bay food show that has local food vendors and restaurants, franchise eateries and food trucks in attendance.
The more unusual events are slated in between a schedule that includes basketball, volleyball, jujitsu, wrestling and futsal events. Futsal is an indoor football-based game with rules that favor ball control and passing in small spaces.
“Certain events take up Friday through Sunday and others Thursday through Saturday,” Kijowski says. “Some events only take up one day, so we’ll look to book out and if we have to flip the building in a single night, we will if it makes financial sense for us.
“We have an entire crew dedicated to flipping the venue from one event to another or from one night to another. I think we have some of the best in the business.”
There’s even event spaces for things such as parties, community seminars and concerts.
“Our calendar is truly full through 2025 in our busiest times, from December through August 1, and we mix in programming during the week,” Kijowski says. “We know what our KPIs (key performance indicators) are and we look at getting those events that drive those KPI metrics.”
The Center has hosted teams from all around the midwest, anywhere within a six-hour driving radius of Sandusky, according to Kijowski.
“A perfect example is that a few weeks ago we hosted a collegiate volleyball event that had teams from nine states,” he says, “If you look at a map, find Sandusky and draw a line six hours out, I think 70% of our folks come from that range. But we’ve also had folks travel from North Carolina, Florida and we had a team from Puerto Rico this year.”
Bringing tourists to the area for tournaments also means business for area businesses, particularly in the winter when the Cedar Point amusement park is closed and few venture into Sandusky.
“I grew up in Norwalk and I go back before these two venues were built,” Kijowski says. “I am partial, but I would like to think we have had a huge hand in keeping businesses open year round. It’s hard for a small business owner to shutter their doors for five months.
“Our job here is to keep those businesses busy all year round and I think we’ve done a phenomenal job in driving that economic impact and the hotel nights in a season that traditionally hasn’t been an option.”
During the week, the schedule includes basketball, volleyball, futsal and pickleball leagues. The center also has rock climbing, a ninja course and has added dance and cheerleading events this year. There’s also an 1/8-mile walking track available whenever the center is open.
Operational hours are from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday for local programming. Friday is set aside for cleaning and to allow the staff to prepare for weekend tournaments.
“Our local programming is typically one night of practice and one night of competition,” Kijowski says. “We are really proud of what we’ve been able to do on the community activation side. A lot of our business is on the weekends and the tournaments do drive a lot of our economic impact, but I think our community impact is just as strong.”
For more information about Cedar Point Sports Center and listings for its schedule and programing, go to cpsports.com.