Horizons Edge Provides Opportunities to the Harrisonburg/Rockingham Area

Prior to January of 2020, residents in the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County area would find the best opportunity to play group sports at a local park. A majority of the athletes in the area found outlets such as club and recreation sports to fill up their free time, but none quite like Horizons Edge Sports Campus

On Jan.18, 2020, Horizons Edge held its grand opening for the community of Harrisonburg. The sports campus, being the first of its kind in the area, was being held at high expectations to support both youth and adult athletes. Horizons Edge is one branch of the larger parent company, Endless Horizons. The CEO of Endless Horizons, John Hall, decided to expand his company in the form of a sports campus that could be utilized in many different forms. 

As Hall began to form his team, former Director of Campus Recreation at Washington and Lee University Ray Ellington, applied for the General Manager position. As soon as Ellington applied, he knew he would easily develop a connection with the Edge and wanted to be a part of the growing business. 

“I have been in sports and recreation my entire career and I was looking to do something that would be more impactful on a community or young people. When this position became available, I went through the process of applying and I fell in love with the Edge and their mission and vision. I was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to join the team,” Ellington said. 

As both the general manager and operations director, Ellington balances running the daily operations at Horizons in addition to seeing the bigger picture and working toward the company goal. 

“My role usually consists of making sure the daily operations run smoothly. That involves everything from concessions to event set-up and break-down. I make sure that all of those processes are in place,” Ellington said. “The general manager role would lean more towards the business side of things like the budget, sponsorships, communicating with investors and with company leadership.”

In addition to Ellington, Virginia native Ashley Henry also applied for a position at the Edge as a way to get more involved in the community. 

“I have a primarily corporate sales background and I was looking to get out of that world and back into the community side of things. When I heard that this facility was built for the community, I knew that it would be a great place to get back involved,” Henry said. 

As the newest addition to the Horizons team, Sports Operation Director, DeVeta Webb took the opportunity to move from Texas when hearing about the job on SGM network. 

“[As the] Sports Operations Director, I am responsible for the management of all sports related activity that is associated with Horizons Edge. I have always had a love of sports and felt this was a great opportunity to help grow sports on all levels while having a positive impact on the local community,” Webb said. 

While Ellington and Webb focus on the daily operations, Henry focuses more on event planning and execution. 

“My title is Events and Tournament Manager but I also do a lot of daily operations stuff. This includes staffing at food and beverage, safety team, front desk and our security guards,” Henry said. “I also handle third party events such as basketball and volleyball tournaments.”

With Horizons Edge opening three months prior to the pandemic, the majority of the momentum and excitement around the new facility faded away. However, the Edge staff have been working tirelessly since the reopening in the beginning of June to rebuild and restructure the available opportunities. 

“I think that after the grand opening we had a lot of momentum moving forward. We were hosting events every weekend and there was a lot of excitement and buzz and then when [COVID-19] hit it definitely forced us to rethink. We have changed our process and approach to better accommodate the COVID-19 situation. We are slowly progressing to get that momentum back to where it was. Due to the pandemic and having to do things differently, it is also certainly more cost effective and has an impact on daily operations,” Ellington said.

Like Ellington, Henry thinks that the period of quarantine served as a beneficial time for the Edge staff to regroup and refine their goals. 

“From the beginning, obviously,  none of us had worked together prior to this building so there was a lot of uncertainty of rules and expectations. Since we have opened post [COVID-19], I think we have better defined our goals and our mission statement and we are all reaching toward that. We are all better teammates, coworkers and even better for the community,” Henry said.

Due to Henry’s major involvement in tournament and event planning, she has to take extra precautions with scheduling and running events. 

“[Due to COVID], we have restrictions on so many things. Increasing our cleaning is a big one. In between games, the bleachers have to be cleared out. We clean spectator areas [and] keep teams in different rooms until the courts are cleared. [There are] the obvious ones like face masks and temperature checks,” Henry said. “It is just a whole new level of sanitization and cleaning in general.”

While the Edge has been able to open up opportunities for both youth and adult sports, they have also had to adjust to comply with safety regulations in the state of Virginia

“Obviously [COVID-19] is a major health crisis and we take that seriously so we shut down for a couple of months. During that time, we were able to learn more about what we could safely do at the Edge. Once the Governor allowed for reopening on a phased basis,  we were then able to comply with those regulations and get some things going again. On a daily basis, we require masks to respect everyone and keep them safe,” Ellington said. 

Even with the restrictions of COVID-19, the Edge offers numerous sports and activities for people of all ages that comply with safety restrictions. 

“We offer a variety of sports programs for all ages. The bread and butter ones would be soccer, basketball and volleyball. We are expanding into flag football, lacrosse, in addition to a variety of non-traditional sports such as pickleball and kickball. Those kinds of sports will be run in a league format or even double-elimination tournament formats,” Ellington said. “We also offer youth programs that would typically be held after school and we also run a summer camp here. We have Clip N’ Climb which is very popular with the youth in the community.”

Ellington believes that the community and team environment at the Edge has a lasting impact on the Harrisonburg and Rockingham communities. 

“I think [the Edge] gives young people an outlet. Sports is one of the best outlets for young people to learn valuable life lessons such as hard work and respect. Being able to offer a place with different programs allows kids with different socioeconomic backgrounds to come together to enjoy our various programs. It does not matter where you come from, you are always welcome at the Edge and I think that is a huge benefit to the community. From an adult perspective we provide many options for adults to come and be social and have fun,” Ellington said. 

Henry also believes that the current and future programs that will be offered at the sports campus will continue to benefit the community and provide them with a space for learning and developing. 

“Before [COVID-19], it was definitely not as community centered and since the pandemic we have definitely changed that course. For example we have the Horizons Learning Foundation program which is a big program we offer to the community. Sports-wise, we give people opportunities to get out of their houses, especially now. We are working on offering different clinics and in a year or two from now we will be able to utilize all of the things that we can offer in different ways. The things that we have in mind will allow us to grow and develop and offer something for everyone to do,” Henry said. 

As a sports campus, the aspect of embracing the team environment within the facility is vital for the staff to maintain in order to also encourage the participants to do so. 

“[At Horizons Edge], I enjoy that I am able to have fun with my bosses but also have serious conversations with them about how I want to develop and grow within this building,” Henry said.  “If I have a goal of what I want to do in the next few years I can comfortably talk to them about it. We can also go to the back patio and have a happy hour and just have fun together. It is a good balance of being able to come together and get stuff done and also be friendly outside of work.”

Webb also acknowledges how the positive environment at the Edge impacts both the staff and the guests. 

“The work atmosphere and team environment is amazing. It provides a true team spirit and family. The best part of my job is knowing that we are having a positive impact on the community, the participants and the staff,” Webb said. 

Similar to other jobs, Henry finds that there are the pros and cons of running a business and maintaining the appropriate safety precautions. 

“I would say [the hardest part of my job] is juggling all of the moving pieces. One minute you can have a broken urinal, a fight breaking out in the parking lot and an injury on court three. Even though it is hard, it is definitely the part I like doing the most. You have to have great multitasking skills,” Henry said. “On the flip side though, the reason I came back here was to get involved in the community. I really wanted to get out of corporate sales. Especially now since we have moved slowly out of quarantine, what is awesome for me is that we are one of few places that are able to be open. We are able to provide that chance for people to start playing again, especially youth. Just seeing the youth in here and actively participating when the rest of our world is so accustomed to being on the phone and not together is great.”

For Ellington, he shares similar struggles and satisfactions as the General Manager at the Edge. 

“The hardest part [of my job] is balancing everything, we have a lot to do and manage and keep up with. Not only are we trying to make sure that we are putting our best foot forward with our customer service daily and weekly, but we have to look at the big picture and take a look at next year’s calendar and events. We plan on building on many of our successes from this year and also improving where needed,” Ellington said. “Then again, the best part [about my job] is being able to go out on the back deck and see people using the outdoor turf and they are playing and having fun or walking into the courts to a gym full of volleyball and basketball practices. We also have a super star staff so it is also fun to come to work.”

As the company continues to grow and develop, both Ellington and Henry have personal and work goals for how they would like to see the company grow. 

“My ultimate goal is to become the director of operations. I have talked to several people so that I can get my masters and figure out what it takes to become the director of operations for this building and then eventually work my way to Endless Horizons and continue to grow within the company,” Henry said. 

As for Ellington and the company, working towards continuing to expand opportunities and build upon the current clubs is one of the main goals. 

“In the near future we are aiming to have more community events and tournaments. We want our clubs to be able to host tournaments that they can be proud of and not have to travel all of the time. Personally, I really want to see that ‘home court’ aspect for our teams,” Ellington said. 

When looking at her goals, Webb and her colleagues can agree that the Edge has just started to show off its potential.  

“My goals are never ending, there is no limit to what the Edge can accomplish. The sky’s the limit for imaginative, inclusive programming,” Webb said. 

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