TRURO - Mason Earl couldn't wait to get to soccer Monday night.
Noah Richard, left, and Montgomery Morris, middle, try to stop Elliott Mullen from getting past during a scrimmage Monday in their Under-6 winter soccer training session at the Cougardome. The group was the first to take to the turf of the brand new, $2.1-million indoor athletic complex. Matthew Veno - Truro Daily News
The 10-year-old Bible Hill resident was one of the first players to run on the turf of the brand new Couga Dome. The $2.1-million indoor athletic complex opened its doors for the first time to CC Riders players for winter soccer training Monday, bringing the building one step closer to fully opening to the public in the new year.
"I was looking forward to it because its my first time being here," Earl said. "There's so much room to play. It's going to be a good place to play soccer I think."
Approval was given by building inspectors at about noon on Monday to allow Riders players to use the Cougar Dome. Sessions had already been delayed a week after inspectors asked for some last-minute improvements.
Cougar Dome manager Tanya Colburne said she was excited to see people inside the dome and using it.
"We're thrilled," she said. "It never really takes it's full form until you see it being utilized and young kids in here makes it that much more special. It's a pretty proud moment for everyone involved."
The Cougar Dome is a 50,000-square-foot (350 feet by 140 feet), indoor athletic complex consisting of six tennis courts, a three-lane synthetic running track and 16,000 square feet of artificial turf, which can be moved or increased in size.
It also includes a track and field jumping pit and a 12-bay golf range.
The brand new turf is soft like grass underfoot and its lush, green colour provides a stark contrast to the bright orange track which runs around the outer edge of the building and the blue dividing skirts that segment off the various sections of the dome.
The lighting was bright in spite of only half the lights being turned on and temperatures were comfortable with a jacket or sweater.
The building should be open for public use on Jan. 2 and will be free to the 21,000 students in the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board.
Colburne said Cougar Dome staff are hoping to hold open houses or tours prior to the New Year to let the public see what it has to offer.
Until then Cougar Dome use will be restricted to user groups like the Riders who had prebooked the current dates. Winter soccer sessions will continue through the week and for the rest of the winter.
Colburne said she was getting plenty of positive feedback from players and parents on Monday.
"A lot of people are excited to be here and are impressed by the facility and its size," she said. "It's all been positive and exciting feedback and we're happy to have everyone in here."
The dome is complete but work is continuing on the front lobby, which will include offices and a Subway restaurant. It should be completed over the next several weeks.
Organizers have raised $1.7 million of the $2.1-million cost to put the pressurized structure in place. Colburne said she is still welcoming donations from anyone interested in helping the fundraising team reach its goal of opening the building debt-free.
"We're certainly willing to have that conversation," she said.
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