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June 14, 2010
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Smith River Sports Complex has scheduled a full slate of sporting events.

New this summer, the Virginia Storm, a semi-pro adult football team, will hold all of its home games at the complex.

The team, which plays in the Central Carolina Football League, is described on its website as "the premiere adult amateur football team in central Virginia." It gives young men an opportunity to continue playing football after their collegiate or scholastic careers end, the site says.

Chris Weeks, the team's president, said moving home games from Gretna to the complex "was an easy choice to make" because more than half the team members are from the Henry County-Martinsville area.

They are graduates of Magna Vista, Martinsville, Bassett and Patrick County high schools, as well as Carlisle School and the former Laurel Park and Fieldale-Collinsville high schools, according to an online player roster.

The players with local ties attract "a huge (fan) following" in the area, Weeks said.

Other players come from Danville, Halifax County, areas in North Carolina and West Virginia, and they should attract visitors to the area, according to Jimmy McGarry, Chairman of the Southern Virginia Recreation Facilities Authority (SVRFA) board.

The board operates the sports complex, which is on Irisburg Road in Henry County.

The Storm's game schedule begins July 17 and ends Oct. 2, according to the complex's website. "They will be playing six of their seven home games at the complex," McGarry said.

Billy Russo, director of operations at the complex, said last year the team also played a few of its home games at Bassett High School. About 800 fans attended those games, Russo said.

"We're projecting at least that many" will attend games at the complex, and possibly more, Russo said. As a result, the complex is partnering with city and county school divisions to bring in more bleachers and additional seating for spectators, according to Russo and McGarry.

Additionally, the complex is partnering with the Martinsville Speedway to borrow moveable, metal crowd control barriers that will be used to help define bleacher space, McGarry said.

Other types of football also will be played at the complex, including 7-versus-7 high school football, being organized by Magna Vista High School, and flag football, organized by city and county recreation departments.

Russo explained that most high schools participate in 7 versus 7 passing tournaments during the summer.

Players in the fast-paced games that generally are played in 25 minutes mainly include a center, a quarterback and five receivers, Russo said.

"This is a real fast-paced game played on a short field" that measures 40- by 40-yards, Russo said. Twelve high schools have signed up to compete in the June 22 tournament, he added.

A one-day lacrosse tournament tentatively scheduled for July 17 will be held on the same day as one of the Storm football games, McGarry said.

"Right now, it is 95 percent" certain the Southwest Virginia Lacrosse Association tournament will be held, Russo said. At least 11 teams have signed up to participate, with play from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on five fields.

Virginia Storm will play football between 7 and 10 p.m. on the same day, he said. All of those games will be played on Field 4, which is the artificial turf field.

Two different events held on the same day "really gives us an opportunity to showcase" the complex as a multi-purpose facility, McGarry said.

The activities will bring revenue to the complex.

"Fees on almost all of our (sporting) events" are negotiated on an individual basis, Russo said. For instance, because the complex is hosting the lacrosse tournament rather than running it, Southwest Virginia Lacrosse Association will pay a $1,000 rental fee - about $500 less than the set fee, Russo said.

He explained that because the games are played during daylight hours, there will be a cost savings because lights will not be needed.

"Plus, this will be the first time they (lacrosse) are here. We want them to enjoy themselves" and attract others to the game, Russo said.

The complex will keep any concession profits, and the lacrosse team is not charging admission. Virginia Storm will pay $225 per game, which "is a pretty good deal," Russo said. That will offset the costs of providing electricity.

Russo said he was not part of those contract negotiations, but "this is another deal we're happy about." In this case, Virginia Storm will keep the gate proceeds, Russo said - he thinks admission will be $5 per person - and the complex again will keep concession proceeds.

Among the future goals for the complex is to run more events rather than hosting them, Russo said. Then, the complex also would benefit from registration fees.

Several summer camps - for children, teens and adults - also are scheduled, McGarry said. The different events are "good for us. It's good for the community" because it will bring tourists and their revenue, McGarry said. "It's also good for kids to be able to see adults playing a sport they (youngsters) are interested in."

That is because adults are role models and show youngsters that sports "are not just for kids," McGarry said. "They can continue playing" after becoming adults. For more information on times/dates of play or a calendar of events, call the facility at 403-5968 or visit the website at