In The Net didn’t create a need, but it continues to meet it. The Palmyra sports complex has built a business around the proliferation and specialization of youth sports.
But in so doing, In The Net has injected money into the local economy and brought business to Lebanon County that wouldn’t have otherwise found its way here.
“Our goal is to provide a high quality sports facility that provides participants of all ages the opportunity to practice and play the sports of their choosing,” said Sue Errichetti-Frye, In The Net’s general manager for the last 14 years. “Most want to play at the next level, collegiately or professionally. It is our goal to help them achieve that dream.”
Sports, she said, play a huge role in youth development.
“It provides them structure, the ability to take direction, how to work hard to achieve a goal, how to interact with others, and most importantly, how to face adversity,” Errichetti-Frye continued. “Kids need something to look forward to, and something to work to achieve, for many, they look to sports.”
In The Net is located at 798 Airport Road in South Londonderry Township, as the anchor of the Flight Path Business Park. Situated on 30 acres, In The Net offers competitors both indoor and outdoor venues, artificial and natural surfaces, some of which are lighted, but all which possess the capabilities of hosting games and practices.
Before it was laid out in 2001, Lebanon Valley College’s Arnold Sports Center and the Lebanon YMCA were the top multi-sports facilities locally. Now, only Manheim’s Spook Nook Sports Complex rivals In The Net for its facilities in the area.
“A majority of our participants are youth, ages ten to 18,” said Errichetti-Frye. “We attract teams locally, and up and down the east coast. Ninety-five percent of our teams travel within a four-hour window for weekend tournaments. Weekday events are comprised of participants from within a 60-minute drive.”
Certainly its proximity to Hershey, Harrisburg, Lancaster and even Reading makes In The Net a desirable destination for serious athletes and their families.
In The Net possesses the capabilities to host the pursuits of soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, football, flag football, baseball, softball, ultimate Frisbee, spike ball and dog sports. It is home to instruction camps, athletic leagues and competitive tournaments.
At one point or another, varsity teams from Palmyra High School, Lebanon Catholic School, Lebanon Valley College and the Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League have conducted athletic contest at In The Net.
“I think the best part about In The Net is not the facilities, but the friendships and relationships that are built here,” said Errichetti-Frye. “Between my staff, our participants and coaches, I have met so many wonderful people and have gained numerous friends, and have built long-term friendships.
“I have not thought specifically about the numbers of attendees [over the years],” Errichetti-Frye continued, “but do find that when I have a chance to travel outside of the area how many people see our logo-ed truck or recognize me that have been to the complex. When I think about how many people our complex has impacted, that is pretty amazing to me.”
Errichetti-Frye estimated that over the past decade-and-a-half In The Net has helped generate some $20 million for the local economy, through meals, hotel stays and assorted amenities. That would make In The Net one of the leading money generators for Lebanon County tourism.
“Our complex, and the events that we host, have a tremendous impact on the local economy,” said Errichetti-Frye. “Every fast food restaurant and convenience store gets slammed during our busy weekend events. I estimate that the events held at In The Net have generated money for hotels, restaurants, convenience store purchases, shopping and Hersheypark.”
As a facility, In The Net has certainly evolved from its somewhat modest founding in 2001. The original owner constructed the main dome and one outdoor artificial turf field, in part to help support the now defunct Hershey Wildcats professional soccer franchise.
“In The Net began as a one-sport facility, originally built specifically for soccer to be played,” said Errichetti-Frye. “The goal of the original owner was to have a place to hold soccer practices and games year-round.”
Prior to 2005, two natural grass soccer fields were added to In The Net’s sports complex. Two years later, three baseball/softball fields were constructed. Then in 2015, three more baseball/softball fields, with the capabilities of hosting soccer and lacrosse in their outfields, were added.
Since, In The Net Academy, which consists of six baseball/softball batting cages and a small area for pitching and skill-specific training, was instituted. The sports complex’s latest addition came this year, a 60,000-square foot, air-supported dome which now covers the original artificial turf field.
“It is definitely a challenge, because there are always obstacles to overcome,” said Errichetti-Frye of the logistics involved in running In The Net. “Whether it is COVID-19 that uprooted our entire year, or a freak thunderstorm that makes our outdoor fields unplayable in the middle of a weekend tournament, or a snowstorm in the middle of winter, there are so many variables that impact our events.”
For nearly three months, mitigation efforts related to stopping the spread of the coronavirus all but brought the activities at In The Net to a halt. But over the last few months, the facility has slowly returned to something resembling its normal operations.
“The past six months have definitely hit us hard,” said Errichetti-Frye. “Having to furlough staff was not an easy decision to make, but one that I unfortunately had to make. The spring and summer are extremely busy for us, and to be shut down for more than three months was difficult. However, the future and uncertainty will become our next challenge to overcome.”
Spectators at In The Net are currently limited during events. They must social distance when in attendance, Errichetti-Frye said, and wear a mask when they cannot remain distanced.
“Masks are required when entering our lobby and restrooms, and only 50 percent of a roster can enter a dugout at any given time. Our staff wears masks at all times, and all players, coaches and spectators are highly recommended to wear masks when outdoors.”
There is little question that the importance of sports and athletics have become ingrained in our culture. As long as that remains the case, it would seem that In The Net possesses the capabilities to meet that unique need.
“COVID-19 will determine our short-term future,” said Errichetti-Frye, “but we have a lot of new events in the pipeline. I have built a good, hard-working staff, and they are working hard to bring new events to the facility.
“In The Net is a top-notch, multi-sport facility geared towards field sports,” concluded Errichetti-Frye. “We are driven by our participants and appreciate everyone that attends our events. It is our effort to make every experience memorable.”
A win-win situation for everyone involved.
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