Seacoast United Eyes Basketball Facility

Club Has Plans for Soccer Arena, too

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, January 6, 2012

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON -- Seacoast United Soccer Club is considering a major expansion at the location of its indoor soccer arena on Winnacunnet Road, including a new building that would house a 52,000-square-foot basketball facility.

Paul Willis, executive director of Seacoast United, came before the town's Planning Board on Wednesday for a preliminary consultation on projects for the club's approximately 12-acre property. The Planning Board reacted favorably to the proposal, but noted a lot of work still needs to be done.

"All we wanted to do was to show them what we are planning and get feedback," said Willis, who noted the club will now work toward submitting a formal application to the Planning Board.

A potential obstacle for the plan: A section where the new basketball facility would go may be wetlands.

"That is going to be the biggest hurdle," said Planning Board member Keith Lessard.

Willis said he's not 100 percent certain it's wetlands, and testing will be conducted.

Other issues that will need to be looked at, the board noted, include drainage, sound, lighting, the impact on abutters and parking.

Traffic was also cited as a potential problem.

Willis said one idea is to have another access to and from the facility off Hardart's Way. Board members noted they would have to talk to selectmen about that.

"I'm pretty sure if you wanted to do that, you would be driven into doing a traffic study," Planning Board member Mark Loopley said.

"I think if you can get access off Hardart's Way, it might relieve some of the traffic off Winnacunnet," Lessard said.

Willis said the basketball facility would be run by a separate group, not Seacoast United.

Tom Viviano, representing that group, said the facility would feature six basketball courts, locker rooms, a concession stand and a training room.

"This came about because my kids play basketball," Viviano said. "Looking in the area, there are no facilities in the Seacoast area that cater to basketball like this one would."

Viviano said there is a need for more court space. "Our main purpose behind this is to try and provide opportunities for the kids," he said. "Are we trying to make money with the facility? We are, there are no bones about it, but I think there is a very big benefit to having this in Hampton."

Willis said the soccer club also has plans for the site, including removing one small indoor soccer field from its existing 70,000-square-foot indoor soccer facility to make room for a health and fitness center.

Planning Board member Fran McMahon said the club would not need to go before the board for that project.

Willis said the club is also in talks with a medical office that may want to open a facility on the site. Seacoast United is also considering construction of a 16,000-square-foot soccer field on the site.

Both those projects would need Planning Board approval.

Willis said the club believes the expansion ideas would add opportunities for local children and add jobs to a struggling economy.

Seacoast United also has a four-field outdoor soccer complex in Epping and runs programs at other indoor arenas, including Kingston and York, Maine. It has hundreds of soccer players in its programs from youth to semi-pro, competing regionally and nationally.