Today, we continue our summer-long series on area businesses that have survived the toll-taking pandemic. Have a story to tell? Email VP/News Jim Rossow at email@example.com
URBANA — For a decade, the area’s soccer crowd — young and old — flocked to Soccer Planet, an open-at-all-hours indoor facility that took weather out of the equation.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“It was on and off after COVID hit,” Soccer Planet General Manager David Galvin said. “We took reservations for events and leagues, and then things changed, and we had to refund. That makes it tough on a business.”
Particularly one where close contact with others — usually strangers — was common.
“We are a very ‘in-person’ kind of business,” Galvin said. “Everything we do is in person and very physical. We had to limit everything we were able to do, and that was after we were able to do it.”
Soccer Planet, located at 2310 N. Willow Road in Urbana, opened in 2011 by founders Liz and Graham Berry, who sold it to Mike Burrus, Mark Sikora and Achim von Bodman in 2018.
A year ago, the 24,300-square-foot building on a five-acre property was put up for sale.
“It’s just the property that is up for sale,” Galvin said, “not the business itself.”
“The effects from COVID-19 on our business have been challenging and we are exploring all potential options,” the owners wrote on Soccer Planet’s website.
The property hasn’t sold yet and Soccer Planet has returned to its normal schedule, which includes hosting leagues, classes and birthday parties.
“We are still trying to get back to normal,” Galvin said. “We are not limited anymore in what we can do, but we have had a lot of difficulties in getting people to return.
“I think mentally, there is a lasting impact from COVID. People are still hesitant to be around people, especially those who have kids. It might be one thing for an adult to go out and participate, but it can be a whole different thing for a parent to take their kid and put them next to another kid and you don’t know whether they have been following all of the rules, or who they have been exposed to.”
Galvin said Soccer Planet stayed compliant through the guidelines directed by the Centers for Disease Control and the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.
“We stayed in contact with them to make sure everything we were doing was OK,” he said. “We had to move outside. We had to stop the leagues and just have our teams participate in small groups. But then at one point, they couldn’t be within 6 feet of each other, so you couldn’t even play any games and you had to get creative with the drills.
“It wasn’t as much fun and we definitely had fewer people than we were normally used to.”
Leagues for youth and adults are back in competition, although the numbers are down compared to previous years.
“It’s been a major struggle,” Galvin said.
Most recently, Soccer Planet has partnered with the Rantoul Family Sports Complex to host an adult soccer league.