Eddie Vandiver admits he loves being at the center of the action.
Whether it’s as a singer, an actor or a public speaker, he gets a buzz from being in the spotlight.
As the front man for the local cover band , Vandiver is the one with the microphone, belting out hits from a crazy mix of Johnny Cash, Green Day, the Foo Fighters or Michael Jackson. Through the years he’s also done community theater, and he’s also not shy about speaking as a member of .
Others might want nothing to do with a stage, but to Vandiver, it’s calling his name.
“I’ve always been a performer,” he says. “I love the rush.”
It helps explain why Vandiver sings praises to the job he has now.
As general manager of the facility in Santee, Vandiver says he feels like he’s in the spotlight every day (and night), at the center of an endless hub of activity. Since it , the place has been of softball and soccer games, leagues and tournaments.
Sooner or later, Vandiver says, .
He says he’s heard people jokingly refer to the facility as “the center of town,” and “the place to be.”
“We’ve got music playing, especially at night, the lights are on, the crack of the bat, the crowd’s cheering, the soccer referee’s whistle is blowing and it’s an electric atmosphere,” Vandiver says. “And it’s really like walking into a ballpark and seeing the green grass on the field. It’s just great. There’s something always exciting going on.”
Background in restaurants
As general manager, Vandiver, 36, is responsible for everything that goes on at Sportsplex USA, a 15-acre spread of softball and indoor soccer fields, batting cages and a restaurant located inside the larger off Riverwalk Drive.
The Fletcher Hills resident oversees more than 25 employees, the budget and payroll and the marketing of the facility. He also acts as its community representative, and serves on the .
Vandiver says Sportsplex USA is operating at capacity, with every weekend booked through the end of the year with tournaments. About 225 teams and 85 teams are booked for regular dates, and 70 boys and girls are registered for the weekly youth soccer program on Saturdays.
Like its , the Sportsplex in Santee is part of a public-private partnership. The city built the park, but Sportsplex is privately owned and pays rent to the city.
Since the moment it opened, Vandiver says Sportsplex USA has been hopping, including the restaurant, a sports-themed eatery with 12 flat-screen TVs.
It’s that part of the business that was Vandiver’s path to his current position.
Since the age of 14, when he was holding up signs on street corners in Rancho Penasquitos, Vandiver has been working for eateries.
After waving signs, he moved on to scooping ice cream at Thrifty’s, becoming a GM at a location when he was only 21, working at and then . He was with Chili’s for 10 years, including a four-year stint as GM at the Santee location before coming to Sportsplex USA.
His background in the restaurant business, his knowledge of Santee– and even his many years playing softball– combined to give him the experience necessary for the job.
“I was really fortunate,” he says.
Vandiver, an avid sports fan, says that’s one of the aspects that makes this job “a blast.”
Because the people coming in and out of the facility and the restaurant have sports on their minds, he makes sure he’s up to date.
“I get to be around sports, talk sports, be involved with sports,” he says, “and I’m a huge sports nut, so that’s great. I feel like I have to check the scores online and watch ‘SportsCenter’ just so I can talk to customers about who won the Red Sox game last night.”
Rockin’ and rollin’
Away from work, most of his free time is spent with his wife, Natalie, or Ramshackle.
The band, he says, could be described as an “ band” on shuffle mode.
“We are known for having such a random collection of music,” he says, laughing. “Some people call it eclectic, some people call it ‘what the hell are you thinking?’ ”
At a recent performance, Vandiver says the band went from Foo Fighters to Michael Jackson to KC and the Sunshine Band to the Rolling Stones.
“We’re just all over the place,” he says. “But they’re all songs people know and dance to.”
Vandiver says the band decided when it formed about 2½ years ago to play fun set lists designed to get people up and moving. The band practices a couple of hours each week and has two to three gigs per month on average.
“I’m the singer, so I play nothing,” he jokes. “I play a little cow bell and tambourine and maracas, but that’s it.”
This Sunday (Oct. 9), in fact, Ramshackle and Vandiver will be performing in the semifinals of the , a battle of cover bands at Viejas Casino.
Mainly he just enjoys being with his friends and creating music people enjoy. In a way, it’s why he likes the restaurant business, too: he’s just trying to show people a good time. It’s what makes him feel good.
But there’s no doubt he loves the attention.
“I’ve always been a performer,” says Vandiver. “I love the rush of getting up in front of people.”
When it comes to his job, that rush also extends into the community.
Wherever he goes, he’s usually wearing a shirt with a Sportsplex USA logo.
It’s like a traveling spotlight.
“I walk around town in my Sportsplex shirt, it’s ‘Hey, Sportsplex guy, I play on Tuesdays,’ ” he says. “Or, ‘Hey, Sportsplex guy, my business has improved since you’ve been here, because you’re bringing all these people into Santee.
“I’m recognizable, and they don’t even know who I am. They just recognize the logo.”