Free Kicks: Soccer at Bell Works

The 2018 World Cup is well underway. With stunning upsets and epic matches you may be adjusting your brackets day to day. But what’s your over and under on Team Santander versus Team Acacia? Or on Team Acacia vs. Team Spirent? Your best bet is to come watch them play on the turf at Bell Works.

Team Santander

According to Dustin Ascolese, the senior technology talent acquisition advisor for Santander Bank, it all started in early 2017 with indoor “grass” in the atriums.

“The two turf fields – we saw them sitting there. And what makes more sense than soccer?,” he said, “I thought we had a unique opportunity to get a hold of the culture from day one, and the building does an amazing job of providing the amenities to do that.”

Once Team Santander took the field, other Bell Works community members took notice and the Bell Labs tradition of sports competition was reborn. “Acacia saw us playing and came by and asked if we were interested in getting some games,” Ascolese said.

The competition is considerable. “We actually do have one colleague, Franklin Castellanos, who played for the Red Bulls…He stopped playing with them just about a year ago… I found a highlight video of him scoring against Chelsea United,” said Ascolese. But he insisted that he is not a ringer. “Acacia’s entire team is better overall, so having one really good player just evens the playing field.” He added, “We got another new guy from Spain… When he came to play for the first time, we went, ‘Wow, we got another good guy! Where has he been hiding?’”

Team Acacia has lots of good guys. William Randazzo, HR business partner at Acacia Communications. Inc., said, “I have folks from every part of the world, from China, Japan, Bulgaria, Germany, India, Sri Lanka, and different parts of the US…and we all know how to play soccer.” Randazzo has been an integral part of the team since he joined the company a year and a half ago. “That was actually one of the last [interview] questions the head scientist asked me, ‘Hey, by the way, do you happen to play soccer?’ When I responded, ‘Yes, I was a goalie,’ his face lit up. I think that might have helped seal the deal.”

At Acacia, 30 to 40 of their research scientists are keen to play. “They are surprisingly skilled, considering that most folks have devoted a lifetime to research and earning advanced degrees. They are equally as knowledgeable and passionate – and good – at playing the game.”

Team Spirent

Spirent joined play a couple of years ago when they were still in their temporary space on the ground floor. “The turf was completely empty and it felt like an opportunity that we shouldn’t miss,” said Ovidiu Reghis, director of CEM product development at Spirent.

For this team, the game is fun and fluid, where sometimes spectators join right in.

“It’s like we have our own stadium to play in, especially when the contractors take a break and watch us play from the upper levels,” said Spirent System Engineer Howard Hammer. “Once a prospective tenant was touring the grounds and jumped in our game for a few minutes.”

Anna Ren, a former Spirent employee who still visits, said, “It’s nice to be able to hang out with your coworkers and run around. [It’s] very easy to convince people who have no experience playing sports to give it a try, which leads to more fun than a more competitive environment would.”

The adapted Bell Labs space where these tenants play has a bit of a connection to the 2018 World Cup.This year’s official ball, the Adidas Telstar 18, was modeled after the 1962 Bell Labs satellite. It unites all soccer fans, watching worldwide, with those watching in the main atrium at Bell Works. Nestled in soccer ball bean bags and huddled around cafe tables, workers at companies here catch matches on breaks, in between meetings and at lunch. The World Cup viewing area is one of the many building wide events that happen here in the atrium which has the vibe of a pedestrian city street.

Team Avengers

Paul Banco, CEO and Founder of etherFAX, was one of the earliest tenants at Bell Works. A player, coach and father of two youth players, Marianna of the Colts Neck Synergy and Ethan of the Avengers, Banco saw the turf as an opportunity for his young teams.

“Turf space in the winter is like finding water in the desert,” he said. “Being able to come here, in this type of building and have the turf to themselves, being able to run to the office and raid the candy, it was just a totally different experience…The building has a lot of good energy.”

World Cup viewing section in the main atrium.

What Randazzo likes best about the World Cup is that “every country is involved, and everyone has a fair chance. It brings everyone together.” Soccer at Bell Works does the same thing, he said. It sustains connections, year round.

“If Santander wants to play a game, and it’s the middle of winter, we’re going to have a game…The turf is a godsend.” Randazzo said, “People see us out here, playing on turf – on the pitch – having fun, with a good spirit of competitioniCIMS can see us and ask, ‘How do we get involved?’”

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