Sportsplex reopens after virus scare, evacuation

Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR — The Taylor Sportsplex did some unplanned spring cleaning last week after more than 80 hockey players and fans became ill from what is believed to be a norovirus.

The city-owned complex, 13333 Telegraph Road, was back in business Thursday after shutting down late March 11, when nearly two dozen players reported the flu-like symptoms.

What started as affecting a few children was quickly determined to be a larger problem, Taylor Fire Chief Bob Tompos said.

“We got a call Sunday night that a bunch of hockey players were getting sick, ‘all at the same time,’ is how it was phrased,” Tompos said.

At first, Tompos said the alarm seemed a little too general in terms, until he learned that nearly 20 players competing in the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association Midget Major state championship were ill and vomiting.

“My first reaction was that something was wrong with the building,” Tompos said.

The tournament, which began the previous Monday, came to a halt as the Fire Department evacuated the building. Players who became ill were taken to Oakwood for treatment, and the city and Fire Department sent out notifications.

By Wednesday, more than 80 participants or spectators reported the same symptoms. A norovirus — the diagnosis of which had been on the rise for the past year — includes vomiting, diarrhea and intense stomach pain. Wayne County Public Health officials conducted tests of water and air quality, and cleared the facility for reopening. A confirmation of the norovirus is expected after final test results are complete.

A crew from Downriver Cleaning Services spent Monday and Tuesday disinfecting the building. Initially the sports complex was expected to reopen Wednesday, but Tompos said it was decided to allow another day to completely dry before opening the doors.

The March 11 contests were the final games of the Midget Major state championship, an amateur league for players under 18.

The final contest ended with an overtime victory by Little Caesars, 5-4, over Victory Honda, which was without four players who became ill before the game; several other players became sick during the game.

The club appealed the game and asked for a rematch, which was denied Thursday by the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association and USA Hockey. The Little Caesars team will travel this month to Buffalo to compete for the national championship.

(James Mitchell can be reached at