By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Tuesday, June 5, 2012
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- The weekend's heavy rain forced organizers to cancel Saturday's events in the two-day gala at Hampton Beach, but not before the new Seashell Stage lighted up Friday night with music and a ribbon-cutting ceremony starring Gov. John Lynch.
A new era at Hampton Beach began with a celebration of the recent completion of the $14.5 million renovation project that includes the new state-of-the-art stage.
Lynch cut the official ribbon on the new stage, saying the project is only the start of what believes will be more changes at the beach.
"I truly believe this will continue to revitalize the entire beach for several years to come," Lynch said Friday night. "This is more than just new facilities. This is about making Hampton Beach more friendly and welcoming to the families that come here. It's about creating more memories — memories that will last for generations to come."
While Friday night was supposed to be just Day 1 of a two-day celebration, the activities scheduled for Saturday were canceled due to torrential downpours. Organizers said they plan to reschedule some of those activities through-out the summer including the band Hush, which will perform on the new stage on July 21.
The new Oceanfront Pavilion complex, which features a new visitors center, function hall and stage with seating for 750, was the last of five new buildings completed as part of the state project, which was funded in the state capital budget in 2009.
The redevelopment project also includes two new bathhouses, more organized parking, better marked streets and pergolas for shade.
John Nyhan, chairman of the Hampton Beach Area Commission, said the night was a dream come true, made possible by many supporters who never gave up.
"Who would have thought in 2009 that this dream would have been possible?" Nyhan said.
The commission worked behind the scenes lobbying for the project, arguing that such an investment would generate more revenue for the state.
Nyhan credited all the local legislators who helped get the project approved, including state Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, who made the amendment to include the project in the capital project as a state representative in 2009.
George Bald, state Department of Resources and Economic Development commissioner, admitted he had is doubts the project would ever come to fruition.
"But a lot of people worked hard to make this happen," Bald said.
A project of this magnitude, he said, takes a lot of coordination, dedication and teamwork.
He specifically thanked, among others, state architect Tom Mansfield, Samyn D'Elia Architects, Harvey Construction and all of the sub contractors who worked on the project.
"A friend of mine came up here last weekend and I asked him what he thought of the project," Bald said. "I got an e-mail back and he said they nailed it!!!"
Numerous local officials and legislators from across the state were attendance, marveling at the new stage and listening to some of the most notable acts that have played at the old Seashell Stage.
"It really is beautiful; it's a five-star facility for a five-star beach," said Daniel Clarke, vice president of member services for Service Credit Union, which was the presenting sponsor for the festivities.
Prior to the ribbon-cutting ceremony, former state Sen. Bob Preston honored four late Hampton Beach icons who played significant roles in the success of the beach.
"Things like this would not have occurred without the help of some of those who are no longer with us," Preston said. Those recognized were Terry Sullivan, who was owner of Casino Fast Food and the Cascade Cafe; the Rev. Duane Windemiller; Hampton Beach icon Jimmy "The Commish" Kennedy; and Jack Knox, who booked all the entertainment at the old Seashell Stage for more than a decade.
Nyhan said the finished project is just the start of what he hopes is further development on the other side of Ocean Boulevard.
"We need move forward and create the beginning of a new era at Hampton Beach," Nyhan said. "The new era must include the return of a family beach."
The Hampton Beach Area Commission coordinated the gala, along with a committee of representatives from the town, state, Greater Hampton Chamber of Commerce, Hampton Beach Village District, Hampton Arts Network, Hampton Historical Society, and local community and business leaders.