After 15 years as the largest air-inflated dome in the country, the Greater Binghamton Sports Complex collapsed in December 2020 amid the area’s record-breaking snowstorm.
Now, four months later, plans are in the works to rebuild the complex. On Tuesday, The Press & Sun-Bulletin reported that the facility would be rebuilt as a steel metal building with 100,000 square feet of space, a move away from the traditional air-supported dome structure of the previous facility.
Within two weeks of losing the dome in December, the business resumed operations at an alternate facility. Nicole Kashou, general manager of the Greater Binghamton Sports Complex, spoke about the outpouring of support from the community during the winter.
“It was awesome, we got so much support and involvement from the community,” Kashou said. “Everybody was reaching out, people from a decade ago who used to play here were sharing stories about what the dome did for them. We had so many kids and adults that were reaching out saying how they appreciated the dome and what it did for them.”
After the dome collapsed, the company quickly relocated its operation to a building it owned in Vestal, New York, completely renovating the facility.
“Within two weeks we got old turf out, put in brand new turf, insulated the whole building, put in new heaters, added new lighting, we completely repurposed the whole place,” Nicole Kashou said. “We made three soccer fields within two weeks. It was kind of insane.”
The Vestal facility is smaller than the dome was, but it allowed the business to continue operating throughout the winter. Renee Kashou, director of marketing and social media, said that the alternate facility was already owned by the business and had been used as the primary location prior to the dome’s construction.
“It was worth it to put the money into it because it was our building and we were completely relocating our business there, but what was done within two weeks was just insane,” Renee Kashou said. “I’m not quite sure that a building like that was built within two weeks.”
As the summer approaches, the tearing down of the dome’s shell was just completed and plans to rebuild are in progress. No concrete plans have been made for the future of the dome site, but with the Vestal site as a backup, the Greater Binghamton Sports Complex will be in operation again this winter.
The dome was constructed in 2005, and the business is privately owned by Bahij Kashou, Renee and Nicole’s father. It has remained completely family-owned and operated throughout its entire existence.
“This is our dad’s third facility,” Renee Kashou said. “We were renting a facility in Johnson City for a year a two, and then I think when he saw the market being there and the need for it, he purchased the facility in Vestal. That’s where we ran out of until 2004, and then the dome went up in 2005. It housed six indoor soccer fields instead of the two that were in Vestal.”
Even before his daughters were old enough to play, Bahij Kashou was coaching youth soccer locally and running leagues. Renee and Nicole Kashou, as well as their other sister Lila Kashou-McKenna, played soccer throughout their childhood and were raised as the family business grew.
“I would say we started working the concession stands when we were like 10, and then it just rolled into going outside of the concession stands, cleaning up inside when we were in high school,” Nicole said. “In college I ran the concession stand and after college we’re running the facility. It’s all family-owned, so we do everything.”
Throughout the dome’s history, it hosted several clinics led by famous athletes. The last was event was in December 2019 when U.S. women’s national soccer team players Rose Lavelle and Andi Sullivan came to Binghamton.
“We’ve had 300 to 400 kids usually registering to those programs,” Renee said. “Last year, even during COVID, parents were reaching out and asking if we were doing clinics again. They’ve been huge, I think we definitely intend on doing that again as soon as we’re able to … These world-renowned athletes have so much inspiration to provide.”
Other U.S. women’s national soccer team standouts have led clinics at the facility throughout its history, including Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, Shannon Boxx and Sydney Leroux.
“It keeps our customers very happy, and it’s something we really love to offer that really differentiates us from competitors around us,” Renee said.
Many of the participants in these events are associated with the facility’s club program, Greater Binghamton FC.
“It started out pretty weak, but then it grew to be this huge club that produces national titles, state titles, regional titles,” Nicole said. “We have DI alumni that come out of here and the way that it’s projecting we’ll continue to create DI athletes with how often they’re playing here.”
There is also a semiprofessional men’s team associated with the club, of which several of the players are Binghamton University students. One BU student organization is also based at the complex.
“A lot of the students from the club soccer teams come in here that play on our adult coed leagues,” Nicole said. “Our [Binghamton TOPSoccer] program is run by [BU] students, it’s a special needs program that the BU students run at our facilities on the outdoor turf.”
With the indoor season nearly complete and the outdoor season underway, the Greater Binghamton Sports Complex is preparing for a busy summer. Last year, the facility hosted a drive-in movie theater, and this summer it will continue to host tournaments and activities to keep Binghamton’s youth active.
“It used to be that the summer was our offseason, however with COVID-19 everybody is more apt to go outside,” Nicole said. “Last summer and this upcoming summer are going to be pretty busy just because most people are more willing to play outside and do things with an outdoor atmosphere.”