Time for fun and games at Lost Nation Sports Park
The Lil' Kickers program is one of LNSP's most popular.
By Deanna Adams
Looking for some fun, as well as many great health benefits? The answer is practically in your own backyard. Lost Nation Sports Park in Willoughby has been offering a round of entertainment and health and fitness opportunities since it opened in 1998. Its combination of ever-expanding state-of-the-art equipment, programs and classes has made this sports arena a “one-stop shopping” place when it comes to sports and recreational activities. In addition, its on-site, full-service restaurant, The Players Club, offers three bars, an outdoor patio, wine, spirits, an Internet jukebox and 13 high-definition TVs. The facility also has a banquet room for special events. Lost Nation Park has been known for years as northeast Ohio’s top sports and recreational facility.
And while things were put on hold for much of the past year, all systems are go at this popular venue. “We have three key things we’re focusing on as we get back into full operation,” says president and CEO, Mike Srsen. “One, of course, is our extra cleaning procedures, according to COVID security measures. Two, temperatures are now taken as players come in. And three, we have everyone sign a release form, which can serve as contact tracing, if needed.”
Srsen adds that as more people begin to venture out and come to the facility, he wants to make sure everyone feels protected and welcomed. “We are doing everything in our power to provide a safe environment,” he says. “We’re already seeing a big increase in numbers of people visiting and participating in the programs. I think people trust us.”
Lost Nation Sports Park has two locations—on the east side in Willoughby, and the west side in Lorain. Their amenities are as wide and varied as the people who visit, which can range anywhere from 18 months to senior citizens.
Get active at LNSP
For adults, the playing choices include basketball, volleyball, football, hockey, soccer, golf, baseball, and cornhole. There are also golf simulators, outdoor soccer fields, exercise classes, which include yoga and Zumba, and batting cages—a unique feature among sport centers.
“We really do offer everything, every sport,” says Ed Strauss, general manager of league operations. “And our leagues are always well attended. We have a girl’s high school basketball league, several men’s leagues, and are hosts of the Mike Moran Basketball Summer Camp.”
Strauss attended Eastlake North and Lakeland Community College, and has now worked for LNSP for 20 years. He became league director in 2009, and runs adult volleyball, basketball, and football, as well as youth NFL flag football, youth baseball, youth Aviators (basketball) and the batting cages.
He leaves the most popular youth program, Lil’ Kickers, in the hands of Sarah Bals, a 2011 graduate of John Carroll University, who is the facility’s social media manager and director of Lil' Kickers East, an innovative child soccer development program for youths ranging from age 18 months to 7 years. She also assists in running the Junior Hoopers Academy, held at the facility.
“The great thing about starting children so young in any sports program is watching their growth in so many areas,” says Bals, who played basketball through college. “The class is 12-weeks long and it’s a nice consistent activity for them. Some are shy at first, but having them come regularly each week, they get to know the other kids, make friends, and the parents feel comfortable, too.”
She adds that at 18 months, toddlers learn to listen, improve their balance, and learn a step away from parents to become more independent.
Lil’ Kickers classes extend to a number of programs. They include the Bunnies/Thumpers, for 18 months to 3 years, Cottontails, Hoppers, and Jackrabbits, for 3- and 4-year-olds, and Big Feet and Micro for ages 5-7. While Bals oversees all the programs, she gives kudos to lead coach, Kylie Lee, for helping the children blossom, both in the sport and social interaction.
“The social aspect is really as important as the sport itself,” Bals says. “It’s really satisfying to us, as well as the parents, to see a timid child grow out of their shell and become more comfortable and begin to interact with others.”
The Players Club
There is no lack of socialization when it comes to The Players Club, located inside the Lost Nation Sports Park, and includes a patio that is now open.
“The Player’s Club is very popular,” Strauss says. “Many people stop there before or after their sessions to get great food and beverages, and have lively conversations. It’s a family-friendly restaurant, too, so you’ll see all ages there. It’s a great place to relax.”
Even those who are not sports enthusiasts often visit The Player’s Club for its good food, drinks, and music, as well as arcade games, shuffleboard game, dartboards, and big-screen TVs.
“Of course, it’s all been challenging during these COVID times,” Bals says. “But in some ways, it has worked in our favor because now people are more than ready to get out and do something, be active, and be with other people.”
The customers also appreciate the talented staff at Lost Nation Sports Park. Each has the knowledge and requirements to teach students of all ages. Bals is pleased by the growing attendance, as well as the compliments. “People tell me they enjoy the programs because we are organized, and they like the energy, enthusiasm, and skills of the coaches.”
“Things are definitely heating up here and it feels good,” adds Srsen. “We’ve all been pent up this past year and everyone is anxious to get out of the house and get back into shape, and have fun, too.”
For more information, or to enroll in any of the programs, visit their website, www.lnsportspark.com, or call (440) 602-4000.
Lost Nation Sports Park East
38630 Jet Center Place, Willoughby
Lost Nation Sports Park West
2105 Silver Maple Way, Lorain