Roll-A-Dome back in play for indoor soccer

Jon LaFontaine and Matt Mehrassa wanted to give indoor soccer a kick in a positive direction. Their planning and organizational efforts have resulted in the 2017 Roll-A-Dome Revival, today through Sunday at the building of the same name.

For years, the B.C. Indoor Soccer League men's tournament and Blackburn Cup women's tournament were played on the well-worn wooden floor of the Roll-A-Dome. The events drew teams from around the province, and the men's side even had regular participation from Yukon squads. The open configuration of the Roll-A-Dome also allowed indoor soccer fans to gather in large numbers to watch the games and the atmosphere that was created made for a great time for all.

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Things changed when the Northern Sport Centre opened on the University of Northern British Columbia campus in 2007. At that point, a state-of-the-art indoor fieldhouse with Polytan artificial turf became available. Predictably, local women's and men's indoor soccer - and their tournaments - migrated to the top of Cranbrook Hill.

While the BCISL still runs healthy women's and men's leagues at the fieldhouse, none of its three tournaments - co-ed, women's and men's - got off the ground this season. All were canceled because of a shortage of teams.

The final cancelation - the men's tournament which was planned for March 3-5 - got LaFontaine and Mehrassa thinking about a return to the old days and they decided to put together the Roll-A-Dome Revival. They had a month-and-a-half to assemble all the necessary pieces, and now, this weekend, it'll be time for some fun.

LaFontaine is excited about being back in the Roll-A-Dome.

"The atmosphere in the Roll-A-Dome is a lot more enjoyable than it was at the university," said the 40-year-old LaFontaine, who will suit up for local team BX Pub this weekend. "The reason for that is, at the university you can only watch from up top - you don't even hear anything, and when you're playing it's quiet. So there really is no atmosphere up there."

The Roll-A-Dome Revival will bring together 10 men's teams and three women's clubs. Ideally, LaFontaine and Mehrassa wanted a 12-team men's division and an eight-team women's group but LaFontaine said an outdoor provincial tournament in Vancouver and short notice of the Revival kept some out-of-town squads from attending. However, on the men's side, teams from Williams Lake, Smithers and Gitsegulka (near Hazelton) will play.

Preliminary games will be 40 minutes in duration and the finals, starting at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, will be 60-minute affairs. LaFontaine said the style of play will be like arena soccer.

"It's a lot livelier because you have the boards," he said. "Every time the ball goes out of bounds at the university you've got a stoppage, but here the ball's always in action. You get the bounces off the boards - there's just a lot more excitement going on."

The Roll-A-Dome Revival is being sponsored by JTM Home Solutions and Mr. Quick Lube & Oil.

For the competing teams, a total of $7,600 in prize is up for grabs. For fans, a beer garden will be on site. LaFontaine said he and Mehrassa hope to use this year's tournament as a stepping stone to bigger ones in the future.

The Roll-A-Dome is located at Recreation Place, adjacent to the Prince George Golf and Curling Club. The 30,000-square-foot facility sits on a valuable piece of land at the corner of Highways 16 and 97 and, because of its location and that area's potential for redevelopment, has been under near constant threat of a wrecking ball. Specifically, some members of the large ownership group want to sell the Roll-A-Dome to make good on their investments.

LaFontaine, who has used the Roll-A-Dome for much of his life, is one of many local residents who has signed on with the PG Dome Society, which wants to save the multi-purpose building.

"I think the Roll-A-Dome is a fantastic asset to the city of Prince George," he said. "It gives active people a place to go. I grew up, since I was 16, renting out the Roll-A-Dome and training with four or five guys. (Manager) Al (Work) would let us come there for next to nothing to kick the ball around. Now you can't find an hour to even book any time in the Roll-A-Dome unless you're coming at 9 or 10 at night (because) it's so heavily used."

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