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story.lead_photo.caption Liv Paggiarino/News TribuneMembers of the Wanted softball team walk to different drills during practice on Tuesday at The Zone. The Zone offers a number of sporting spaces, like batting cages, basketball courts and multipurpose indoor fields.

It's drilled into athletes' heads to stay on top of their training, even during the offseasons, but that can be difficult if the community lacks the space.

As the crack of bats hitting baseballs and basketballs swooshing through nets echoed throughout The Zone last Tuesday, three local couples said they have finally filled that void in Jefferson City.

Curtis and Suzette Howell, Joe and Lori Lopez, and Mark and Julie Gerlach opened The Zone, an indoor sports training facility Jan. 6 at 2523 W. Main St.

The 35,000-square-foot facility offers nine batting cages, a full basketball/volleyball court, two pitching lanes, a multipurpose training room, and a 9,000-square-foot turf field. There are nets that participants can use to readjust the size of the court, batting cages and pitching lanes.

As dozens of athletes worked to perfect their skills last week, Suzette, Lori and Julie said they were pleased the community had embraced the new business.

The parents noticed a community need for an indoor sports training facility after their sons, who play baseball together, struggled to find adequate space to practice, especially during the offseasons.

"It's so neat to see those teams out there practicing and having fun and getting better at their sports," Lori said, watching a group of girls in matching jerseys play basketball. "Last winter, when my son wanted to shoot hoops, but we weren't a member of any other facility, he just had to wait until it warmed up or just practice at basketball practice. Now, he can practice any day of the week."

About 35-40 teams have used the new facility since it opened, the three women said.

They're also excited to attract some overlooked activities like archery and cornhole.

"The possibilities are endless," Suzette said.

Along with a full concession stand, The Zone provides equipment that helps personalize practices, such as a "smart mitt" that tracks an athlete's pitch speed and accuracy, the women said.

For coaches, the facility has a room containing a whiteboard for team meetings.

The Zone also offers training sessions and classes for basketball, softball, baseball, soccer and football, as well as one for flexibility and injury prevention.

The owners hope to eventually offer summer camps at The Zone.

While the athletes were their prime target, the owners said, they wanted to cater to parents' needs too.

A long bar wraps along the edge of the basketball/volleyball court and turf field, where parents can sit and watch their children practice.

Nestled near the basketball/volleyball court is a small room dubbed the "quiet zone," where students and parents can work during practices. The owners hope to offer ACT prep classes in that room eventually, Suzette said.

The Zone is open 4-9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 4-8 p.m. Fridays, 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays and 2-6 p.m. Sundays.

Members have unlimited access to The Zone during business hours.

People can sign up for one-month, six-month and annual memberships. A one-month membership costs $70 per month, a six-month membership is $55 per month, and an annual membership is $35 per month.

It costs an additional $20 per month to add additional family members to a membership.

If a non-member attends The Zone with a member, it costs $10 for a facility day pass. If a non-member does not attend the facility with a member, it costs $15 for a facility day pass.

A member class pass costs $5 per class, while a non-member class pass costs $15 per class.

Soccer night is free to members and costs $10 per day for non-members.

The owners' vision of the sports facility was difficult to see when they initially looked at the building, which previously housed a roofing company. The couples worked for about a year to renovate the facility.

The three women joked they and their husbands put a lot of "sweat equity" into the building but were proud to see the positive results.

"We're just on cloud nine," Suzette said.

Not only does The Zone offer a place for athletes to hone in on their skills, Lori said, it's also a welcoming atmosphere for teenagers looking for a safe environment.

"There's a need in our community for them to have a place to go that's safe on the weekends or a place to hang out that would promote good choices, so I would be really excited if this turned into something like that as well," she said.

Suzette and Julie joked birthday parties are their favorite activities in the new business. For a recent birthday party, Suzette added, the children played dodgeball, kickball and other activities.

"I don't know who has more fun — the kids or me," Suzette said with a laugh. "We were running around having a good ol' time, and it was so much fun."

Two-hour birthday parties cost $150 for members and $200 for non-members. The parties include either use of the turf field or basketball court, five pizzas, plates and napkins, as well as access to the concession stand.

Organizations and teams can also rent the space for fundraisers or special events, the owners said. It costs $75 per hour for members or $125 per hour for non-members.

Know of any business happenings around Jefferson City? Let us know at [email protected]

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