×

Grantham Indoor Closing as Retirement Beckons Owner

  • Parker Mason, 10, of Lebanon, N.H., watches his father Shawn play in a 35-and-older men's league game while having fries and chicken fingers with his mother Amye at Grantham Indoor in Grantham, N.H., on Dec. 4, 2017. Parker and his older brother also play in soccer leagues at the facility. Its owners have announced they will be closing in January 2018 after selling the building. "We love it here," said Amye, whose family have been playing soccer at Grantham Indoor for the past eight years. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Fred's FC players Wesley Leuthauser, of Lebanon, N.H., left, and Glenn Halleck, of Newport, N.H., warm up before their 35-and-older men's league game at Grantham Indoor in Grantham, N.H., on Dec. 4, 2017. The facility's owners have announced they will be closing in January 2018 after selling the building, which will become a warehouse. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Austin Eaton, a Sutton, N.H., resident and a member of Lake Sunapee Country Club in New London, N.H., practices for the Masters Golf Tournament, including on a virtual course at Grantham Indoor in Grantham, N.H., on March 31, 2005. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Grantham — Robert MacNeil was supposed to be retired already.

Owning and operating Grantham Indoor, an indoor recreation facility just off of Interstate 89, he said, was more of a labor of love than anything else. Nineteen years later, the Lebanon native has decided he’s ready for that long-anticipated retirement.

Grantham Indoor Inc., the MacNeil company that owned and operated the facility, announced in a letter on its website on Thursday that it would cease operations following its recent sale to a new owner who would turn the building into a warehouse. MacNeil said on Monday that the sale won’t be finalized until after the new year and therefore would not disclose the buyer or the sale price. The property had been listed for $1.35 million by The Equity Group Realtors, a commercial real estate company out of Lebanon.

MacNeil said he had been trying to sell the business for at least the last five years, prioritizing buyers who would be willing to continue its operation as a indoor recreation facility. Grantham Indoor, which serves a few hundred people a day, has operated a multi-use turf field — for recreational soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, boxing, baseball and softball — and an interactive golf simulator since 1998.

“No one was stepping forward,” he said.

The facility was almost sold in the spring to a different buyer that would have continued Grantham Indoor’s current operations, he said, but the finances fell through. When the new buyers approached him about turning it into a warehouse, the sale was too good to pass up.

“It’s been a great 19 years,” MacNeil said. “But we’re tired, too. It’s been a long road.”

MacNeil first bought the property, which originally was a warehouse, in 1996 and then spent some time trying to figure out what to do with it.

“When I heard about indoor soccer, I went down to the mid-Atlantic, the Carolinas and up the East Coast,” he said. “Indoor facilities had been around for years and years. But the one thing that almost everyone said was to make these things in areas with about 350,000 to 400,000 people,” MacNeil said. “So I did my search, carved out about a 30-mile driving distance, and came up with 250,000 (people). But I thought, ‘Our winters are longer, and we can diversify.’ ”

MacNeil said business was good for about 30 weeks of the year, particularly during the winter months. During the summer, Grantham Indoor would shut its doors. Staying open just wasn’t worth it, he said.

Kimball Union Academy, with the help of the Lightning Soccer Club, completed The Barn, its own indoor turf facility, in 2012. The club, which had previously operated out of MacNeil’s facility, moved to the Meriden site that same year after the new facility opened. MacNeil said KUA’s facility took a limited amount of customers away from his business, adding that the newer indoor space was not his main reason for selling.

“We made it 19 years; it wasn’t a failure,” MacNeil said. “We made it work.”

Rob Grabill, Hanover High’s boys soccer coach, said Grantham Indoor’s existence had a significant impact on developing varsity athletes. Lebanon boys soccer coach Rob Johnstone took it a step further, saying the facility’s closing leaves athletes who want to participate in soccer year-round — but who may not have enough experience to join a club squad — out in the cold.

“The thing is indoor soccer is playing for fun,” he said. “It’s not as structured as offseason club training or varsity practices. You can go out there and take chances, work on your game and do things you’re not allowed to do elsewhere. ... (Grantham Indoor) is a great place where you didn’t have to eat, sleep and breathe soccer. You could just go, play and have a good time.”

Johnstone, 51, also said he remembers spending plenty of time participating in adult recreation soccer leagues as a young adult. Those athletes also are now without a home.

“I am so sad,” said Steven Root, 62, of New London. “I totally understand why they’d do this. But when I got the news this morning, I was so sad. They're just a pleasure to deal with. ... As a customer, they’re just the nicest people. They’ve treated everybody great.”

Root said he’s been coming to Grantham Indoor since it opened.

“There are several things about this place that are really special,” he said. “The first is that the Upper Valley is so diverse. Over the years, I’ve played with Spaniards, Brazilians, Argentinians, Bosnians, a Russian guy. It’s a wonderful place to meet people and mix it up.

“I have no idea (where we’ll end up next),” he added.

Chuck Weinstein, an assistant soccer coach at Sunapee High, said the Lakers have used Grantham Indoor as a practice facility to get used to turf before playoff games.

“I was just talking to some of the guys last night like, ‘What else is there?’ ” Weinstein said. "We used to play some futsal (soccer played on a hard court) over at the Sunapee gym, but it was hard to organize and there were so many basketball games.”

Grantham Indoor, Weinstein said, made organizing adult league games a whole lot easier.

MacNeil, whose two sons, Chris and Dan, played soccer at Lebanon High, said he’s been encouraged to hear how much Grantham Indoor has meant to the people who use it since making the announcement.

“Hopefully, we raised the skill level in the area a little bit,” he said.

Grantham Indoor will close its doors on Jan. 30. Its equipment, including goals, golf simulators and a turf field, are all up for sale. 

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.