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Dog agility trials at the Sports Domain Academy in Clifton, New Jersey offer what most people want most – a good turf floor and, in the summer, air-conditioning. On my recent visit there, fellow competitors with fast dogs agreed that the turf at Sports Domain fits the bill, with the A/C providing some relief from the heat. The trial was hosted by Staten Island Companion Dog Training Club on July 20-21, 2019 and judged by Carol Mount and Paul Mount from Matawan NJ.
There were several issues I encountered on this visit. Put together, they were somewhat frustrating – but only because it was my first time trialing there. Here’s a recap of my experience, some of which one might be able to avoid to make their visit more enjoyable.
Facility road sign a little misleading
It was a beautiful day for a drive to Clifton, NJ, and it’s a good thing because I drove a little longer than originally planned when trying to find Sports Domain Academy. As I was driving along U.S. 46 E listening to my GPS give me alerts that my destination was on the right, I couldn’t see the sign. It wasn’t until I drove past the entrance driveway that I saw a woman walking a dog on leash, looked back and realized I had passed my destination. Normally, this would not be that much of a problem, but in this instance, it’s a bit of a hassle since the road is a divided highway. This meant I had to drive to the next exit – luckily, it wasn’t too far away – get off the highway, get on the overpass, head west until the next exit, turn around…you get the idea.
On my second approach, I went much slower and realized part of the reason I missed the sign was that the overhead highway signs hide the sign for the soccer place as you’re approaching it. The second reason would be that I was looking for a sign stating “Sports Domain Academy,” but it simply says SDA Indoor Sports Facility. All I can say is thank goodness for the woman pottying her dog in the small grassy area by the road.
Parking is tight
When pulling into the driveway there is a small parking lot out front with room for about 10 cars. The main parking lot on the front of the building houses another 15 vehicles. Parking is definitely tight here, thus no RV parking is allowed. To add more parking space, trials are only held on Saturday and Sunday, so neighboring business lots are which are closed on the weekend can be used. If you don’t want to walk too far with your supplies and dogs, it’s recommended that you arrive early enough to get a close spot. Even handicapped parking is very limited, with only 2 spots visible by the front door next to where the equipment trailer is parked.
Choosing the right entry door
The front door is the one see as you first pull into the main lot. An SDA sign is on the front of the entrances and the glass doors are on each side of it. One door takes you to the lower level where crating is located, and the other door takes you to the upper-level lunch room and viewing area that overlooks the rings.
If you enter the first one you come to it takes you directly into the crating area. This is a large soccer ring area that has A/C and two single bathrooms, one is handicapped accessible. Despite the A/C, it was a little warm in this area and most people brought fans to keep their dogs comfortable. There are large signs about crating being tight and to conserve space. They must be working because there was plenty of room for everyone there and even some empty areas.
Large rings, Sprint turf, excellent lighting
To get to the rings you go up a few steps through the doorway to the right after coming in the entrance. While the A/C in the crating area works, it is much better in the ring area. Once in this area, it is an even larger open artificial turf area, with both a JWW and STD ring. The lighting is excellent. The STD ring is first as you enter this area, with the trial secretary table centrally located between the two rings. The JWW ring is furthest from the crating area. Ring gating is expandable baby gates, with entry/exit gates that hold closed with very strong magnets. There is a warm-up jump near each ring and competitors had their chairs set up along the front of each ring to watch the action.
Nice viewing areas
In addition to setting up ringside chairs, there is a viewing area accessible through a doorway and up a few steps from the main ring. The room has tables, chairs, vending machines and large windows through which you can watch the ring action. The A/C in this area is fantastic and provides welcome relief. There are a few more bathrooms at this level which are a little larger than those in the crating area.
Club great lunch buffet, volunteer incentives
There is no food vendor at this location, however, SICDTC provides a very nice buffet lunch for volunteers. Workers also receive raffle tickets for prizes and discount tickets toward future trial entries. This club treats their workers right! According to trial chair Susan Busacca, “We try to make an event that is fun and enjoyable for everyone.” The club has been around for almost 75 years, so they’ve certainly had the time to practice and have succeeded in getting things down pat.
Potty area, just ok
The potty area is out back through a door by the JWW ring warm-up jump. This door has a sign to remind you to close it behind you so the A/C stays inside, and when I saw someone neglect to do this, several competitors told them about it right away. They want that cold air to stay in the building and they mean business! When you first go out the door it’s very overgrown with weeds in the back alleyway. You turn left to get to the grassy area that has been trimmed down for the dogs to use. You will notice some of the additional parking in lots that border this grassy area and even more parking up an incline off this area.
If your dog doesn’t take to pottying on mowed weeds there is mowed grass in the front of the building that many people used. It’s a little more inconvenient to access and the waste cans are not out front, but it is a nicer option.
Several nice vendors
There were two vendors along the wall on the left: Whiskazz and Pawzz embroidery had everything from hats, bags, t-shirts, leashes, collars, and even their “Too Damn Hot” $5 rack sale. The second vendor had tables full of treats and toys. The third vendor at the trial was equipment supplier MAD Agility, with owner Mark Dreese manning a table in the central ring area.
Overall it was a very nice place to trial and my dogs loved running in the spacious rings, on beautiful turf, and in an air-conditioned climate. With such a wonderful indoor location and a two-ring trial, it would be the cat’s meow (err, dog’s bark?) if the facility could work on better parking for all.