By Tris Wykes
LEBANON – A local group including Stanley Cup champion Ben Lovejoy hopes to partner with the Carter Community Building Association to construct a pair of outdoor sports surfaces on open space immediately north of the organization’s Witherell Athletic Center.
Tiffany Adams, secretary for the Lebanon Planning and Development department wrote in a Thursday email that the CCBA has “been in touch with our Zoning Administrator to inquire about the process of adding additional/other playing fields. We have not received any formal application of any sort.”
Paul Coats, director of Lebanon’s Recreation, Arts and Parks department, described the project as a “mini pitch”. He indicated that Lebanon resident Dan McGee, the chief operating officer of Claremont information technology company Red River, is another member of the group.
The space under consideration is just west of Eldridge Park and tucked into a curve of the Mascoma River on what’s currently a grassy field used for community recreation and summer camp activities. It would accommodate what the manufacturer, Urban Soccer Park, describes as “our standard two-field park”, which it lists at a rough cost of $500,000.
The company’s website, urbansoccerpark.com, lists that product as 140 feet by 120 feet. Sources say the model being considered for the CCBA site would include one surface covered in artificial turf. Another would feature textured flooring often found in multi-sport indoor facilities that host sports such as volleyball, floor hockey and roller hockey. Both surfaces would be surrounded by sidewalls similar to those found in ice hockey rinks.
Lovejoy, who grew up in the Upper Valley before playing ice hockey at Dartmouth College and in the NHL, confirmed his involvement via email. CCBA director Kerry Artman wrote her organization is “working with a group on a concept, but details are far from figured out and we are approaching initial discussions with the city to see what’s possible.”
Lovejoy and Artman declined to discuss further details and asked that the project not be disclosed to the public. Revealing the project might prevent it from coming to fruition, they wrote. McGee did not respond to an email query.
“We are still trying to figure out for ourselves what might work,” Artman wrote. “I’m not sure there’s a rush for sharing news that is in its infancy.
“As a private business, the public is welcome to know what we plan to do when we figure it out.”
Urban Sports Park’s website describes its two-field product as including lights. Such illumination, along with noise and traffic potentially created by the field and the need for additional parking, could spark opposition from residents of apartment buildings across the river and to the east of Eldridge Park.
Coats told the Lebanon Conservation Commission last month that the city faces a shortage of recreational fields. He had proposed building three fields and a 40-car parking lot alongside the city’s Two Rivers Conservation area, behind the shopping center once anchored by a Kmart on Route 12A.
That plan appeared to end when the commission voiced concerns about environmental affects the fields might have on an area it would rather see preserved for hiking, fishing and wildlife.
“I think getting playing fields in Lebanon is an uphill battle,” Ernst Oidtmann, chairman of the commission, said in a videotaped meeting.
Coats said Wednesday that he remains optimistic. He declined to identify the site his department is currently targeting for the development of sports fields, but said it could cost Lebanon less than the Two Rivers plan. Some recreation department youth teams are using space above the Lebanon Middle School, but Coats said that site drains poorly and isn’t a long-term solution.
“Whatever happens with the CCBA and its field, the city’s need for recreational fields isn’t going away,” Coats said. “Our younger students need a place to play and it shouldn’t be in the outfield of a baseball field.”
To date, the Planning & Development Dept. has not had any contact with anyone regarding sports fields on CCBA property.”
Urban Soccer Park, headquartered in Boise, Idaho, offers miniature fields intended to capitalize on the rising popularity of futsal, a 5-aside version of soccer played on outdoor fields or in gymnasiums and recreation centers. It’s intended to mimic games played in streets, alleys and parking lots around the world.
The harder surfaces and enclosed, small spaces force players to make faster decisions and develop ball-handling mechanics tied to skill development.
USP’s frequently asked questions page informs readers that its field walls can be printed with advertising, “which can be monetized to offset project costs”. Water, power and ground preparation are not included in the fields’ cost, but surfaces can be in place and hosting games within a month of a city or developer’s payment, the site notes.
Concerns about health problems caused by rubber infill pellets used in artificial turf have grown during recent years. However, USP promises “a proprietary, recyclable turf with a clean sand, organic infill… Underneath is an interlocking, channeled shock pad that ensures soft landings and drastically aids drainage.
“No black, rubber crumb infill, no heavy metals, no fumes.”
Urban Soccer Park has built its fields in New York, Texas, Oklahoma, Idaho, California and Florida, its site says.
If you found this story worthwhile, please consider donating to support the work that produced it.
Octopus Athletics is an independent site covering sports in the heart of the Upper Valley. Your contributions allow us to bring you news without paywalls or pop-up ads.