A place for kicks and sticks

  • An artist’s rendering of the New England Sports Park project that will be installed over two outdoor courts at Lebanon’s Carter Community Building Association in August. (Courtesy illustration) Courtesy illustration—

  • An artist’s rendering of the New England Sports Park project that will be installed over two outdoor courts at Lebanon’s Carter Community Building Association in August 2021. (Courtesy illustration) Courtesy illustration—

  • An artist's rendering of the urban soccer project that will be installed over two outdoor courts at Lebanon's Carter Community Building Association in August. (Courtesy illustration) Courtesy illustrations

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 7/6/2021 8:46:47 PM
Modified: 7/7/2021 11:17:31 AM

LEBANON — The COVID-19 pandemic pushed Jared Rhoads out the door. The easing of the pandemic finds Rhoads still outside. He’s quite happy to stay there.

The founder of Upper Valley Floor Hockey will be among the first customers of a new joint venture between three area investors and Lebanon’s Carter Community Building Association. The project, scheduled to begin construction on Aug. 23, will see the installation of two enclosed sports fields — one an artificial turf surface for five-a-side soccer and other field sports, the other a plastic multi-sport surface for street hockey and the like — over two of the CCBA’s outdoor courts.

Rhoads has gone so far as to begin recruiting floor hockey teams for his league’s fall season before the first piece of the project sets up.

“We’re really excited,” Rhoads said on Monday afternoon. “It’s a surface that should serve the sport well. It’s basically the right dimensions; we’re excited that it’s not much larger or too small. … I think it should be fun to play outside.”

Bill Miles, Dan McGee and Ben Lovejoy formed New England Sports Park, a New Hampshire public-benefit corporation, to construct the surfaces at the CCBA’s Witherell Recreation Center and pursue similar opportunities elsewhere. All three have sports backgrounds: Miles recently became executive director of the Lightning Soccer Club, McGee is a former Lebanon High student-athlete and CCBA board member, and Lovejoy, the former Dartmouth College and retired NHL defenseman, has three daughters who can count on sports being part of their lives.

“(It’s all) of us coming together, in various conversations around, trying to provide high-quality, well-run recreational facilities for the greater Upper Valley community,” Miles said during a recent group interview. “We wanted to create a field where you can play year-round and multi-sport, so we could work with whatever sports parts of the community wanted to join in.”

Miles didn’t divulge the project’s cost, only saying it it’s in the “six figures” and is being covered by the new company. Because the surfaces are going over existing courts, New England Sports Park only needs a building permit from the city of Lebanon to construct them, something the company hadn’t received as of late last week.

Once erected, the turf field will be 100 feet by 60 feet in circumference with a cork-infill artificial surface, built over one of the CCBA’s outdoor basketball courts. The multi-sport floor will be as long, slightly narrower (55 feet) and go atop one of four existing tennis courts. Both surfaces will be surrounded by boards and netting, both will have LED lights on corner posts so they can be used at night, and both are designed to be easily movable, if necessary.

An Idaho company, Urban Soccer Park, is building the modular pieces that will frame both outdoor surfaces, as well as the turf field. A Leominster, Mass., firm, MS3 Multi-Sports Surfaces, in manufacturing the multisport floor for the other enclosure.

New England Sports Park will handle all maintenance of the fields within the walls, Lovejoy noted, even snowblowing them in winter to keep them available. Parties interested in renting will work through the company, which will have a check-in area on site.

“From our perspective, it’s in a perfect location for all communities in the Upper Valley to use it,” McGee said. “It’s very central. People can get here easily. They can leverage all of the restaurants and shops, but they can also leverage all of the amenities at (CCBA). Moms and dads can drop the kid off, do whatever they have to do, and they can work out, they can swim, whatever they choose to do. … It just fits in with the city’s vision plan.”

Executive director Kerry Artman noted that the CCBA has an agreement with New England Sports Park to allow its members to use the surfaces or for the facility to run fitness classes on them as part of having them sited there. She said Shaun Mulholland, Lebanon’s city manager, supports the project, as it fits with the city’s downtown revitalization goals.

“We’re always looking for ways to bring exciting things and ignite excitement around recreation and sports,” Artman said. “Bringing in the turf field, which is not something widely popular or available around here, and be able to anchor them here, we’re excited about. The street hockey, inline hockey opportunity is so novel, and we know there’s a demand for it. … To work with these guys and develop it in a really legitimate way, and bringing their expertise in it with their own sports backgrounds for us, it’s a total home run.”

Rhoads expects the multisport court will allow him to expand his floor hockey league, stage four games a night rather than the three when UVFH played in the CCBA’s third-floor gym and do it in a venue built for the purpose. He’s ready to start.

“It’ll be a very nice improvement,” he said.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.

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