As professional athletes we spend a lot of time on the road. Whether we’re busing, flying or driving vans, being on the road means that we’re spending many nights in hotels. This was even more true this past week when we flew to Orlando on a Tuesday, played a rain-delayed game against Orlando City B that ended past midnight on Wednesday, and then flew to Harrisburg at eight the next morning. In this span of five days that included a bus ride home to Cincinnati, we had the pleasure of staying at four different hotels, which pretty much makes us as qualified as Captain Obvious from Hotels.com. Fortunately, though, this trip gave us the incredible opportunity to check out the Warehouse Hotel at the Nook.
The Warehouse Hotel is located adjacent to the Spooky Nook sports complex just outside Lancaster, Pennsylvania. For the devoted lover of butter churning and horse and buggies, the abundant Amish community may be the best part of Lancaster County, but for a group of professional athletes with the maturity and energy level of a U-12 team, this enormous sports complex takes the cake. Imagine creating a pretzel empire and then selling it to buy a 700,000 square-foot warehouse to convert it into a sports emporium. That’s exactly what the creator of Auntie Anne’s did, and we had the privilege of discovering the place for two straight, rainy, Pennsylvania days.
Thursday, May 5th, 2016
We arrive at the Warehouse Hotel around 2:45pm. The hotel lobby doesn’t look like anything special until we do a little investigating and open a set of double doors that gains access into what was once a warehouse. We are told that this particular space is used as the linking walkway between the hotel and the main area of the complex. It includes Giant Jenga, two sets of cornhole, a set of Can Jam, and several different sets of chairs. After checking in and getting into our rooms, I had to head to the mall to get a new phone (my hands aren’t as good as my feet) and I return just after the optional yoga session had already begun. The session is taking place in the large outdoor dome located on the opposite side of the complex. This gives me the opportunity to navigate through the endless different sports being played throughout.
I begin the process of walking to the dome and immediately run into a large rock-climbing wall. Swallowing my jealousy, I take a left to continue to my destination, passing the arcade and the cafeteria. I come across the plethora of basketball and volleyball courts sprinkled with a couple of small-sided soccer pitches and a large open workout-gym area. I find the door that leads to the outdoors and I come head on with the giant white dome. As I make the hundred-foot trek through the cold, rainy Pennsylvania air to the dome’s door, I get the opportunity to pass by the U.S. Women’s Field Hockey field as they begin preparation for the Olympics in Brazil. I finally reach the safety of the inside and take part in the last twenty minutes of the yoga session, which mostly consists of me lying on my back.
After the session, a regeneration session is scheduled to take place in the large open gym area that I walked by on my way to yoga. This consists of a large ice bath the complex was nice enough to create especially for us, as well as an open area for foam rolling and stretching. A few of the players choose to get their legs going a bit by getting a few basketballs and throwing them at some hoops. We play a couple games of 21 and knock-out, and then all meet up for dinner at the cafeteria.
After ingesting the delicious meal, the only logical option is to inspect the adjoining arcade. After we spend fifteen frenzied minutes of checking out every possible game the arcade has to offer, and getting tricked into using our hard-earned credits on a virtual roller coaster ride, a crowd of players grows around Jimmy McLaughlin and Andrew Wiedeman, who are playing the Deal or No Deal arcade game.
Tickets are hidden inside the cases instead of dollar amounts, so the big prize is an impressive two hundred tickets. Prior to choosing one, the cases are shown to the player and then scrambled at high speed. No matter how hard we try, and how many people try, we cannot keep our eyes on the case containing the top prize. After spending upwards of thirty minutes trying several different strategies, the big prize is still eluding us. It doesn’t matter whether one person picks every case, or if we alternate between ten different players to pick the cases, we just cannot win. We finally decide to use the technology given to us by our smart phones in order to make certain that the game wasn’t programmed to win every time. Using the Slo-Mo video function on our phone we are now able to figure out which case holds the top prize. Due to our team’s rock solid moral compasses, and the time constraint that the video game puts on choosing the cases, we did not use this to help us get the top prize. When we re-watch the video, we are saddened to see that the game was not rigged and that we are just terrible Deal or No Deal players. After an exhilarating afternoon and night, it’s finally time to head to bed.
Friday May 6th, 2016
I wake up and head to breakfast prior to the last practice before tomorrow’s game. The rain is still down-pouring so the practice will be a wet one. We take the bus to a local youth team’s practice turf field and go through the usual pregame practice routine. We finally get back on the bus and head back to the Nook. Once back at the hotel, a few players set up an impromptu yoga session to be lead by our own humble Yogi Tomaselli.
After another fantastic meal in the cafeteria, we head once again to the basketball courts to throw some more balls at hoops. After a shoot-around and a few more games of knockout (that’s kind of the only game we know how to play on the court), Luke Spencer claims that he can dunk. In my experience about three percent of people who say that they can dunk actually have the ability to dunk a basketball into a ten foot hoop. Well, check out the video below. (Video shot by Eric Stevenson, awesome soccer skills by Omar Mohamed)
Some of the guys decide to stay on the hardwood for a bit longer while the rest of us head to the grand walkway to play some cornhole. We arrive and are greeted by an intense game of Big Jenga being played by Ross, Mitch and Kenney. We wait for them to end their game by playing some Can Jam so that they can join into our cornhole tournament. The ability to throw a Frisbee is a completely overrated skill in my opinion, and that opinion has absolutely nothing to do with my hopeless incompetence at actually having a Frisbee land anywhere near my intended target. While the cornhole is being set up, a lot of confident banter is coming from Kenney and Pat in reference to their cornhole abilities, which they then back up rather swiftly and efficiently. They are actually too good and so everyone quickly decides that it is time to take a nap.
At 6:00pm we have treatment for those that need it with our always soft-handed Aaron Powell. This consists of some more foam rolling and stretching as well as some stimming and icing. This is followed by a scouting session about tomorrow’s opponents, the Harrisburg City Islanders. As I make my way with the rest of the team to the video room we uncover another large area of the complex filled with many turf fields separated by large netting. I use the many tactics learned from Yogi Tomaselli to clear my mind and prepare for the scouting information that will be presented to me in a few minutes.
After an important scouting session, we move on to dinner. Once again the arcade is calling and many people converge on the Deal or No Deal game in order to finally defeat the beast. Eric and I find our own little niche game involving fish, harpoons, sharks and teamwork. Our ability to harpoon the prized sharks greatly increases with every game. Unbeknownst to us, a few of the other players had cashed in their tickets and we were about to be ambushed by soccer players with Nerf guns. As we focused intensely on the task at hand of harpooning smaller protective sharks in order to harpoon the larger, prized sharks, Nerf bullets flew into the back of our heads. The power of this Nerf gun cannot be overstated. After a few moments of confusion, we see Jimmy and Andrew scurry away, giggling. We won’t go into the night quietly. We head to the ticket desk to trade our tickets in for protective toy guns. Unfortunately, even with our large amount of tickets we choose poorly and our Nerf guns are the plankton of Nerf guns. They are small, powerless and very bad at protecting us from anything. Minutes later we fall to another ambush and Eric succumbs to the always-painful Nerf bullet to the eyeball. We head to our locked rooms to protect ourselves and safely spend our last night at the Spooky Nook.
The next morning includes breakfast, yoga and the packing of our bags to head to another hotel for our pregame meal. After a thirty-minute bus trip we arrive at the next hotel, which had the unfortunate luck of having to follow the Warehouse Hotel and all it’s amenities. For being stuck in a rainy Lancaster County, Pennsylvania without knowing anyone or having anything to do, Spooky Nook made the couple days there more interesting and exciting than I could have imagined. Using my newfound hotel expertise, I would (Captain) obviously rate it a 10/10.