Batter up in Woodbury: Skills Sports now open
When Costa Hasapopoulos was looking for a place for his kids to practice baseball, softball and hockey in a fun environment, he couldn't find the right spot.
"There was no place, really, on the east side of town to do this," he said.
The Woodbury resident decided to open Skills Sports Training, an indoor sports training facility fully equipped with batting cages for baseball, softball and hockey, as well as a soccer and lacrosse field.
The center is located on Hudson Boulevard in the northeast corner of Woodbury near Summit Snowboard and Ski shop.
The space used to be a home improvement show center. Hasapopoulos remodeled it and turned it around quickly to open this spring, though he continues to add equipment and finish up the upper level.
"I opened the whole thing starting with baseball knowing that I would do hockey later," he said.
He expanded with hockey in July.
When people walk through the doors of Skills Sports Center, they quickly notice the hockey training area which starts with the "Rapid Shot."
Rapid Shot is a hockey batting cage that tracks shooters' scores and progress in an online system that collects data from all over the globe.
"If you're a 15-year-old male, you can see how you're doing compared to all 15-year-old males in the world," Hasapopoulos said.
He added that it's not very common to see Rapid Shot cages in Minnesota.
"It's pretty high-tech," he said.
Right outside of the Rapid Shot cage is the stick handling training station, which is also computerized. It works like the popular Dance Dance Revolution game - kids react to what the computer tells them to do with the stick and the puck. It's intended to help players with their hand-eye coordination with the stick.
"One of the things that kids like is the gadgets," Hasapopoulos said, but added that it doesn't mean they don't like the typical ice rink where they can go shoot the puck around.
Across from the computerized area is a typical ice rink. In the back of the building is where the baseball, softball, lacrosse and soccer fields are located.
The whole concept of the training center, Hasapopoulos said, is to make it a comprehensive place where athletes can go train while having fun. It's also open for those just looking to hang out.
Skills Sports Training can accommodate individuals, groups of people or even entire teams, he added.
The business also partners with professional athletes who will be on hand for training in their offseason.
One of the players is Joe Bonfe, a New York Mets minor league player who will be spending his offseason in Woodbury.
Bonfe is a Woodbury native and a 2006 graduate of Cretin-Derham Hall. In addition to his own personal training, he will be at Skills Sports Center over the fall and winter months.
At Cretin, Bonfe played on the 2006 state championship hockey team and is now in his fourth season with the Mets.
Skills Sports Center batting cage is token operated and has four speeds of baseball and three speeds of fast pitch softball.
"The whole thing is about more consistent practice over a longer period of time in a place that's fun," Hasapopoulos said.