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Can the Freeze Reignite the Fire of Arena Soccer in Cleveland?

Fans of the indoor game have many fond memories. Unfortunately, most of those memories are in the past.  Known by many names, this version of the beautiful game focuses on bringing the game inside for fast and entertaining soccer.

In Ohio, there were many success stories when it came to the sport of indoor soccer.  The Canton Invaders, and more importantly, the Cleveland Crunch and Force took Northeast Ohio by force.  Big crowds in large venues were the name of the game.  10,000-12,000 fans coming out for a match went from a goal to the norm at the Richfield Coliseum as the game surged in popularity.  But that bubble burst as the indoor game went from something like the “Roaring 20s” to resembling something more like “The Great Depression”.

Attempts to resurrect the sport in NE Ohio, once an important hotbed, have yielded mixed results.  The Cleveland Pride came and went without anyone noticing them followed by the Ohio Vortex, which had a successful first season at the Canton Memorial Civic Center, the former home of the Invaders.

But the bad luck soon found its way into the Vortex camp as the owner and much of the staff left behind an organization that struggled mightily for three more seasons.  Constantly changing venues, a revolving door of players, and financial instability left many fans of the sport with a bad taste in their mouth.  You could certainly argue that the Vortex brand did more harm than good.

So who would be brave enough to brave these troubled waters to bring arena soccer back to Cleveland? An ownership group made up of coaches, retired players, and successful entrepreneurs have boldly take a step forward to bring the Professional Arena Soccer League (PASL) franchise called the Cleveland Freeze to the suburb of North Olmsted.

Snider calls the decision to bring the Freeze into the PASL as a “no-brainer” since the league has good, workable business models and 20 existing teams in the pro division alone.   He hopes that the Freeze will bring about a rebirth of the indoor game here in the Midwest, providing Ohio talent somewhere to play and at the same time providing fans with a chance to enjoy the beautiful game in a new and exciting way.

Now the PASL is a smaller and more cost-effective version of the grand days of the NPSL and MISL at their peak.  We’re no longer talking about crowds in the thousands, but rather the hundreds.  But the game remains the same, a version of soccer that borrows from the speed and intensity of hockey and makes goals and big scorelines a reality. No more complaints about watching a 0-0 draw or getting only a goal after 90 minutes.  This certainly is not for the soccer purists, but rather casual and curious fans or diehards left behind from a forgotten era.

Scott Snider and his team of investors are not afraid to take a risk, hoping that this brand and this organization can herald a rebirth of the indoor game right here in the Sixth City.  But it is not going to be easy, but they are just asking for a chance.

Giving them a chance is as simple as heading out to a game at the Soccer Sportsplex in North Olmsted.  The Freeze will be offering up to 1000 seats for spectators, including bleacher seats, a VIP lounge, standing room areas, and “on the glass” seating for an up close and personal view of the game. They will have a full offering of food and beverages, including beer and wine.  All at an affordable price.

Some things are stacked in their favor.NE Ohiois historically regarded as a great soccer market, one of the best in the country. AFC Cleveland and recent U.S. Soccer friendlies have rekindled the area’s love for the beautiful game. Any many Clevelanders still remember the “good old days” of the Crunch and Force as Hector Marinaro and Otto Orf graced the Coliseum.

You only have to look at the struggles of the Vortex to come up with concerns, but the Freeze organization appears to be a different animal altogether.

The first thing that stands out is experience.  Snider and fellow co-owner Louis Kastelic are soccer people.  Snider and Kastelic both were players for the Vortex and know how to avoid those same mistakes.

Kastelic, only 26 and fresh off a successful playing career, is already making headlines as the youngest head coach in PASL history.

Kastelic is a real leader in NE Ohio soccer, serving on the staff of indoor soccer legend Hector Marinaro. (Photo Credit: JCU Sports Information)

Snider, a goalkeeper by trade, and Kastelic, an assistant with the John Carroll University men’s soccer program, have a passion and desire to make this work unlike anything we have ever seen.  The latter even has Marinaro, his boss at JCU, to lean on.

What better person could you get advice from? Marinaro absolutely shattered the record books for indoor soccer and helped bring a championship to a city that hasn’t had much luck in that department.

Snider and Kastelic are joined by three other investors, forming a strong and stable ownership group that has as much experience in the business world as they do on the field.  And they are committed to Cleveland and NE Ohio in a big way.

“I grew up on the Cleveland Force and the Cleveland Crunch,” Snider commented. “We want to honor and respect the game and build something new.  Something that offers unique, affordable winter entertainment.

Giving back is going to be a big part of the Freeze’s involvement in the community.  Snider has plans for charitable organizations to gain revenue from 50/50 raffles, ticket sales, and exposure at Freeze home matches.  Community camps and clinics are also planned for the future. All of this is done in a love for NE Ohio and Cleveland.

“Cleveland is in a Renaissance,” Snider added. “It is such a great time to be involved in Cleveland.”

And it is a great time to be involved with soccer.  The World Cup in Brazil is less than a year away. The EPL is getting record ratings numbers on U.S. television. The growth of soccer in every outdoor league has reached unprecedented levels. But how will that translate to the indoor game?

If anyone can pull off arena soccer in Cleveland it is going to be Scott Snider and the Cleveland Freeze.

Category: PASL