By Justin Haggerty

MUSKEGON – When the L.C. Walker Arena acquired a new turf surface in July, the first thought for many was arena football.

And that will become a reality when the new West Michigan Ironmen professional team starts playing in March.LSJ Logo incert

In the meantime, Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson had noticed the fan base that the Muskegon Risers pro soccer team established in its first season of play.

So Peterson approached Risers owner Matt Schmitt about hosting the first indoor soccer event in the 55-year history of the arena.risers logo

A deal was struck and the Risers will host Detroit Waza Flo Saturday in a special winter exhibition game at 6 p.m. at Walker Arena.

“The arena has never hosted a soccer event before,” said Schmitt, whose team will begin its second regular season of play next summer. “Given the Risers’ success in the community [the city] thought we might be able to help pioneer indoor soccer in the L.C.

“Our fans and corporate partners have helped us build a solid foundation, which has allowed us to take on the challenge of arena soccer with confidence.”

Detroit Waza Flo plays in the MASL (Major Arena Soccer League) and has operated since 2008. The Risers are not in a league and play an independent schedule during the regular season.

Saturday’s event will be a rematch from July when Muskegon defeated Detroit 2-1 in an outdoor match.

Much of the Riser roster will be comprised of returnees from last year’s squad, joined by locals players Jake Vanderlaan of Grand Haven and Tyler Lane, who played at Western Michigan Christian High School and Muskegon Community College.

Muskegon Community College head coach Ben Ritsema will serve as head coach for the Risers this weekend.

Schmitt said ticket sales have exceeded expectations, and he’s looking to establish an annual indoor game tradition.

“The arena game is our program’s bowl game,” Schmitt said. “Being a start-up, we’re in the process of establishing traditions and the arena game will be an annual cornerstone of the Muskegon Risers SC.”

Gates will open at 5 p.m. All tickets will be $5.