Spooky Nook Sports will no longer be the "Home of Hockey.”
The U.S. women's field hockey team will be relocating to a new training center, Spooky Nook and USA Field Hockey announced in a joint statement on Monday.
Originally under contract through the end of 2027, the two sides agreed to an amended deal that will span the same length of time, but with the women’s national team finding a new headquarters while Spooky Nook continues to host a number of smaller competitions.
“I think maybe a year or two ago we started having conversations about the things that have worked really well and some things that haven’t worked quite as well as we wanted,” Simon Hoskins, USA Field Hockey’s Executive Director, said over the phone from the team’s national offices in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “That’s when we started talking about, hey, let’s look at a new partnership, which we have now, which is mostly based around all of the youth programming, but with the women’s national team moving elsewhere.”
The U.S. women moved to Spooky Nook in 2013, leaving the training facility they shared with the men’s team in Chula Vista, California. Signing a 15 year lease with the Nook, they christened the facility with a four-game test series against Canada on the indoor, dome field in March 2014.
Since then, the squad has hosted a number of international matches and a pair of major tournaments. In 2017, the Nook served as the site of the Pan American Cups — both the men's and women's tournaments — while last year, seven games of the inaugural International Hockey Federation (FIH) Pro League season were played on the outdoor turf.
“This was a lot of conversations, with me and (Spooky Nook founder Sam Beiler) about what is best,” Hoskins said. “We looked at how it can work, spoke to him, but it wasn’t to be. Then we were talking — all of the things that do work, let’s make sure that we continue to hold them at the Nook.”
“Really, a lot of it revolves around the outside turf,” Hoskins admitted. “We require wet turf for elite hockey.”
Issues with the turf field and between Team USA and Spooky Nook were brought to light last year when a petition from unnamed members of both the U.S. women’s and men's field hockey teams appeared on Change.org. Among the problems cited was the condition of the playing surfaces at Spooky Nook. The outdoor pitch, which had been used for Team USA's Pro League games, failed to meet the latest FIH standards for competition.
USA Field Hockey announced it would play its Pro League home games at the University of North Carolina this year, which started with a 9-0 loss to FIH No. 1 the Netherlands last week.
Spooky Nook acknowledged the issues with the outdoor pitch and had agreed to replace the turf, which is still under warranty for five more years, and Team USA had been training at the Nook up until the game against the Netherlands.
The team is currently in South America, preparing for two games against third-ranked Argentina February 7-8 that start a four-game Pro League road trip. No. 14 Team USA will then head to Chula Vista for training before returning to UNC for the final three months of the season.
Opened in 2013, Spooky Nook Sports Complex features more than 700,000 square feet of indoor space in addition to 50 acres of outdoor facilities. USA Field Hockey leased about 10,000 square feet at the complex, including indoor and outdoor fields, a performance training center with weights and other work out equipment, a media room, locker rooms, lounges, a trainer's room and coaches offices, all of which are open to players and staff 24/7.
The Nook spent "millions" building out the area for Team USA, Spooky Nook Chief Operations Officer Jim Launer told LNP | LancasterOnline last month when the facility opened its doors to the media to discuss the claims made in the petition.
As of Monday evening, the petition has 5,760 signatures.
“As the needs of the national team have grown over the years, USA Field Hockey's needs have changed, and we have jointly decided that the Nook may not be able to accommodate all of those needs moving forward," Beiler said via the release. "Spooky Nook’s roots are deep in the youth sports market, which means the highest demand for surface space is on evenings and over the weekends. This peak time demand has started to conflict with the needs of the USA Field Hockey national team. New pitches to support field hockey and other turf sports will be installed in 2020.”
In addition to Team USA and club, high school and college teams, the Nook also hosted the NCAA Division III field hockey Final Four in November. Franklin & Marshall fell to Middlebury 1-0 in the championship.
The Nook will still host international field hockey, including the Indoor Pan American Cups — both the men’s and women’s tournaments — at the end of March. The Under-14 and Under-16 girls and U-10 and U-12 boys National Indoor Tournaments will also still be held at the Nook.
As for outdoor competition, the National Futures Championship and the National Club Championship will now be held at the Virginia Beach Regional Training Center. The Young Women’s National Championship, a tournament used to evaluate players for possible selections to the junior and/or senior national teams, will now be held at the University of Connecticut.
USA Field Hockey has just begun the process of finding a new long-term home for the women’s team.
“On behalf of the organization, I would love to thank the whole community who supported the women’s national team and USA Field Hockey,” Hoskins said. “Having thousands of people in those bleachers for all sorts of international series since 2013, and even indoors — it was really great that the team could be so well supported, and many of the next generation of players hopefully have been inspired by that.”
“I’ve been at games before when we’re at other venues and there’s no one there, so it was great that the community embraced us as it did. It is definitely the heartland of hockey and much appreciated.”