Voltage,Town ink agreement

MANCHESTER - An agreement has been reached between the Vermont Voltage Premier Soccer Club and the Town of Manchester for the team to play up to five games at Applejack Field over the next three seasons.

The deal was finalized on Friday, Jan. 11, after months of negotiations dating back to the fall, according to Manchester Town Manager John O'Keefe. The agreement is a one-year contract with two one-year options. After the first season, O'Keefe said either party may notify the other that they do not wish to continue the agreement.

"I'm very happy [to have a] finished agreement with the Town of Manchester," said general manager of the Vermont Voltage Bo Vuckovic. "We already played there the past couple of years [so] It will be a great opportunity to play more games in the summer. We love playing in Manchester and it's a great crowd, great field, good atmosphere for the game, so I'm looking forward [to it].

Over the past couple of years, the Voltage have played exhibition games on the Fourth of July at Applejack Field. However, Manchester Town Manager John O'Keefe said that because their league has specific rules about locker rooms and other things league games could not take place at Applejack Field. With the addition of the Park House though - which will be completed in February - that has changed.

"Before the park house was built we couldn't have hosted this team," O'Keefe said. "So, [that's] one benefit. It's certainly not the reason we built it, but it's certainly a great side benefit."

When the Voltage have played exhibition games at Applejack in previous years Vuckovic estimated that they probably drew an attendance of about 1,000 people - something he hopes they can improve upon.

"We are looking to build off that and we're going to start as soon as we finalize our schedule in March," he said. "We're going to start promoting all our games in that area and hopefully we'll get good attendance."

Though their schedule has yet to be finalized, Vuckovic said they will probably try to get teams from Boston or other areas of Massachussetts to play at Applejack.

In a conversation with O'Keefe on Wednesday, he felt the agreement would not only bring more people to the town to watch the games, but that it could be beneficial in other ways as well.

"I think it will be a draw on the cultural side in addition to what we already have because it's more of an active cultural attraction," O'Keefe said. "We've got a lot of cultural amenities here in Manchester, but we really didn't have a team, a professional team, that called Manchester its home. I think it's going to be very good for the town. I think it will bring a certain level of excitement and energy to the town. I think it's good for kids. I think it's good for soccer. So, I think overall it's going to be a big plus."

In addition, both O'Keefe and Vuckovic said they felt some of the high school players would be able to learn some things about the game simply by watching the team in action.

"I think that's one of the major things that is lacking here in the United States. A lot of kids are playing soccer, but they're not watching as much as like kids in Europe," Vuckovic said. "It's very, very important that you have that visual aspect of the game and you can improve a lot just by watching it. Certain stuff you're going to learn, what's happening on the field and how the players act in different positions and what they need to do, you've got to watch and that's lacking. So, I think this will help tremendously."

As part of the agreement, Vuckovic said the club will be holding camps at the Manchester Parks and Rec Department and that all the players will serve as camp instructors.

The Voltage are also exploring the possibility of entering into a partnership of sorts with the SVM Fusion Soccer Club, according to Fusion president Les Jorgensen.

"They're going to be doing some of our training," said Jorgensen. "The same developers that train their players are going to be training our players so we're really excited about this opportunity."

In return, Jorgensen said the Fusion Soccer Club will try to promote youth involvement, help with ticket sales and promoting Vermont Voltage games, and possibly even provide ball boys and ball girls.

Though certain aspects of the training are unclear, Jorgensen said the Fusion Soccer Club has an idea of what they would like to see happen.

"We'll have to see, but what our vision of this is is we'll start with our youngest players and have them help us train players in a very consistent manner all the way through," said Jorgensen. "The more that we can provide what I call an academy approach where the same training from eight to 18 is applied ... we can only be excited about the possibility of having that for our area."

The Voltage's season - which consists of somewhere between 12 to 15 games - begins in May and goes until late August or early September, Vuckovic said.


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