Residents of Voorhees have something to celebrate. The new owners of the Coliseum have decided to preserve it and modernize the facility, instead of demolishing it.
Omar Wellington, an owner and spokesperson for the new facility, has indicated that he plans to seek Planning Board approval for the finishing stages of the redevelopment project on March 12, renaming it the “Nexxt Level Coliseum” along the way.
The Coliseum, located at 333 Preston Road, is currently being partially used as Nexxt Level Sport Facility. The building itself has a storied past. The Coliseum was built on land purchased from Abbott Dairy, and then built in 1968.
The facility was the practice arena for the Philadelphia Flyers. It was used at one time by such Flyers greats as Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent and Bill Barber during the fabled 1970s “Broadstreet Bullies” era.
After those famed years in local hockey history, further development to the building and land property had fallen on hard times, after switching from owner to owner.
Wellington and his crew at Nexxt Level Sports purchased the property with a distinct vision in mind, not only to restore the property, but preserve some of the original Flyers facilities.
“When we came here, it was a nightmare. We fixed it up,” Wellington said.
The Coliseum has served the township for many years, offering multiple sports and training areas, and travel sports teams under the direction of Wellington.
In 2008, the Philadelphia Soul made part of the 100,000 square foot facility its practice and training facility, which complement Nexxt Level Sports health and fitness facilities to this day.
After the Soul moved in, the seminal moment for Wellington came in 2012, when the family-run business reached a point of whether they should remain or leave the Coliseum.
“Our business was growing. It was a year and a half process to purchase the Coliseum…we’re not some largely funded outfit, but it was all worth it,” Wellington said.
One of the main concerns Wellington and his family had was the poor condition of the pool at the facility. Naturally, phase one of the redevelopment is to create the Nexxt Level Aquatic Center, and is part of the approval the owners are seeking from the township.
Wellington is proud of the fact that local businesses are being tapped to assist in the project, some of which also hold facilities in Voorhees.
“All of our engineers, architects, etc., are South Jersey based…most of them actually train with our company,” Wellington said.
The potential economic benefit to Voorhees comes with no governmental expense. The entire project will be privately owned and funded. Overall, the project has the potential to take a largely obsolete building and convert it into a new revenue stream for the township, he said.
Wellington appreciated the fact that government officials also see the positive potential in this project.
“They have been very, very supportive,” he said. “We shared our visions…especially with the aquatic facility’s pool. It will be one of the largest in Southern New Jersey, with 10 swimming lanes. The area needs it.”
The facility will not be limited to swimming. Wellington’s vision includes more space for one of their most popular training sports, basketball, in addition to other sports.
“The facelift will have field hockey, wrestling…it’s multifaceted,” Wellington said.
Because Wellington owns the Coliseum, he has funded it with business loans, and believes a proposed restaurant and café, “will be the heartbeat of the facility,” in addition to observation decks where parents, families and friends of athletes will be able to watch training sessions.
The Nexxt Level Coliseum is seeking to become fully operational as soon as possible, with the aquatic center opening sometime after September.
It is anticipated that the public will have access to the facility where it can be enjoyed by the entire community, though no daily schedule has been created yet.
“We don’t have an open house or anything, but we will,” Wellington continued. “Community outreach will be a major part of this. It’s not like a gym where you go and do your own thing. It’s personal.”
A new yoga studio opened a couple months ago, and is the newest addition to the property. In time, the rest of the training centers will accompany the new studio.
“This will be a state-of-the-art training facility, which will include speed, strength, adult fitness, personal training and group activities,” Wellington said.