Leonard Vierra wasn’t much of a softball player before he started playing at Big League Dreams.
Ever since he started on a team with his coworkers on Wednesday nights, however, Vierra says it’s something that he looks forward to each week. Not only is it fun, he says, but he also believes it’s a huge benefit to local residents.
“I really like the conditioning and getting the chance to go out and have fun with friends,” Vierra said. “I think it’s one of the best things that they did for Manteca. It’s a good thing for families as well.
“It’s a place that brings people together.”
And since opening in 2006, Big League Dreams has definitely brought people together.
Initially the park – a joint venture between the City of Manteca and a Southern California company – opened with only three fields in October of 2006, and added the remaining three in March of 2007.
While the initial draw was huge, the park was far from capacity in its softball leagues during its first two years of operation. It was a slow but steady growth period according to General Manager Roy Fetherolf.
What started off with maybe 250 teams playing every single week grew over the course of that period of time up to the maximum amount of 360 teams.
Getting all of that organized, however, takes a rocket scientist.
One of BLD’s staffers had a friend that works for NASA in Houston that developed a special program that allows for the unique scheduling of each of the teams that also deals with the conflicts that they may have with certain blocks of time.
All of that helps make the games themselves run a lot smoother and allows for more games to be played in a given night.
And if you’re planning on organizing a tournament over the course of a weekend, you might as well break out your day planner and skip ahead 12-months before you start looking for a date.
According to Fetherolf, all weekend tournaments are booked solid one year in advance. That includes youth baseball and girls fastpitch as well as adult softball from both in and out of the area.
The tournaments themselves are often scheduled over the course of two days – requiring hotel stays and filling area shops and restaurants from visitors to Manteca that bring tax revenue to the city.
For the past two years the park has seen 400,000 plus paying customers annually. Fetherolf expects to see that again this year.
“With the economy we see it a little bit during the week because people really don’t have the disposable income that they had before,” Fetherolf said. “And I think that we’re going to take a little bit of a hit this year because of a rainout that we had on a tournament in June. It’s the first rainout that we’ve had in three years.
“That’s 5,000 people that we’d normally get on a tournament weekend that we didn’t have,” he added.
Another area of the business that has flourished since Day 1 has been the indoor soccer arena.
With routine games running daily from 6 p.m. every 45 minutes – and with the last game starting at midnight – teams from throughout the Central Valley and some coming from as far away as Sacramento and the Bay Area fill the arena.
Being a part of multiple soccer teams has been routine for Gabe Padilla. He loves what the indoor arena offers players of all ages and skill levels.
“It gives players the chance to stay in shape, and those who are out of college to play just for the love of the game,” he said. “More than half of the people that I hang out with today are people that I’ve met here at Big League Dreams.”
Big League Dreams is located at 1077 Milo Candini Drive. For more information, or to sign up for a league, call 824-2400.