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WEEKEND - Rainy days produce big crowds, Pandemonium at Funspot

dLACONIA — The world's largest arcade turns into the busiest place in the Lakes Region on rainy days like the one experienced this past Wednesday when the parking lot was filled and it was wall-to-wall with people inside, so filled in fact that many had to wait on porches before they could get inside.

With more 600 games, Funspot becomes the destination of choice for tourists and locals alike whose outdoor adventure plans have been washed out and who are looking for something to keep themselves busy.

''It's an all-hands-on-deck day for us, sheer pandemonium,'' says Steve Lawton, Funspot business manger. ''Normally we have 11 people working, but on the days when we know it's going to rain we call in another 10 or so and everyone is out straight the whole day.''

On those busy days as many as 2 million redemption tickets are run through the 150 games at Funspot which reward players for their scores, creating long lines at the redemption prize center where, thanks to the marvels of modern technology, the tickets have been run through a counting machine which produces a slip of paper with the number of points earned which can be exchanged for a prize.

Funspot owner and founder Bob Lawton, 83, says that he showed up at the bill changing machine early in the morning and spent most of the day working there, making sure that things were running smoothly with those machines as well as the discount coupon machines, which provide tokens for customers.

''I never got downstairs to see how busy we were there until four in the afternoon,'' says Lawton, who says that Wednesday was the fourth rainy day this summer and that it is those kinds of days which allow Funspot to remain year-round.

''If we could have 10 days like that a summer we could fly through the winter,'' says Sandra Lawton, Bob's daughter and the assistant general manager at Funspot, who recalls that in the 1980s there was summer in when it rained every weekend and there were indeed 10 full house days.
Bob Lawton says that the Fourth of July this year was probably the busiest day ever at Funspot, and that part of a project which will see a new 5,500 square foot 18-hole indoor mini-golf course created was completed just in time for that big holiday weekend.

''We had eight of our bowling lanes closed down because we were putting in a floor for the mini-golf course on the third level and the crew from Bonnette, Page & Stone was able to complete it in time for us to reopen the lanes for the weekend.'' said Lawton.

He said that the new indoor course will replace one of Funspot's original attractions, an outdoor mini-golf course with its New Hampshire landmarks theme, which has been open since 1964.

Lawton said that several of the more famous landmarks, like the Cog Mountain Railroad, will become part of the new indoor golf center, which is slated to hold a grand opening on Nov. 8, Military Appreciation Day.

The course will be available year-round and will be self-service, with vending machines serving customers, and capable of handling as many as 500 golfers per day.

He said that the old outdoors course will be turned into a park area.

The existing indoor retro 9-hole mini-golf course will be dismantled to provide more space for arcade games.

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 August 2014 01:37

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DeVoy says jail solution can cost $2 million, or less

LACONIA — Dave DeVoy, the Republican candidate for the Belknap County Commission in District 1 (Laconia, New Hampton and Sanbornton) said this week that the issues at the county jail could be addressed for a cost of "$2million or less."

He was speaking to members of the Laconia Rotary Club, a majority of whom appeared to react favorably to his remarks.

DeVoy was raised in Dedham, Massachusetts and resides in Sanbornton with his wife and two children. A retired colonel in the United States Army Reserve, DeVoy owns and operates three convenience stores — the Mobil Mart in Gilford and the Bosco Bell Store and Blueberry Station in Barnstead. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and earned his Master of Science degree at the United States Army War College and Master of Business Administration at Plymouth State University.
In 2012, DeVoy, a Republican, lost his challenge to incumbent Democrat Ed Philpot of Laconia by 701 votes, 5,320 to 4,619. DeVoy carried Sanbornton and New Hampton as well as Ward 1 in Laconia, but could not overcome Philpot's margins in the other five wards. Philpot is not seeking re-election this year. Dave Pollak of Laconia is the only Democrat running.
Devoy said that as a small business owner he was drawn to politics by his rising taxes. "I felt like I had no say in my tax bill," he remarked. In particular, he grew concerned when the county commission began considering the construction of a new correctional facility at a cost of more than $40 million.
"Something is wrong in Belknap County," Devoy said, explaining that the jail population grew 126 percent between 2000 and 2008, six times faster than in the other nine counties. Likewise, he said that 60 percent of the inmates are awaiting trial, three times more than in other counties. And the incarcertation rate in the county is more than twice that of other counties. "We need to change the way we do business," he said. "We need to get out of the ages and into the 21st century."
What Devoy calls his "Smart Jail Plan" consists of two major components — reducing the number of inmates and renovating the existing facility. He said that the jail has capacity for 87 inmates, but currently houses 92. He noted that one correctional officer can supervise a dozen inmates who are either monitored by an electronic bracelet or on work release. He said that currently one officer manages the bracelet program and by adding two officers the number on bracelets could be tripled. He estimates a work release program could reduce the numbers housed at the jail by another dozen or so.
Devoy favors offering a range of educational and rehabilitative programs at the jail and suggests the space allocated to administration, which together amount to some 10,000 square feet, could be converted to classrooms. He suggests building "a small, inexpensive wooden structure" at the county complex to house the commissioners.
Acknowledging that the existing jail is in need of repair, Devoy insisted that it is not beyond repair as the commissioners have claimed. The HVAC system, he said, can be replaced and necessary repairs undertaken without having to construct a new facility. "You've got to punch back and challenge these guys," he said.
Devoy remarked that Pollak, has toured the jail as well as jails in other counties and gathered information, but "he's not telling you what he's going to do. I', telling you what I want to do."


Last Updated on Saturday, 16 August 2014 01:07

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WEEKEND - Eight members of Lakes Region Triathlon Club competing in this year's Timberman

LACONIA — Eight members of the Lakes Region Triathlon Club will be taking part in this weekend's Timberman Triathlons at Ellacoya State Park in Gilford.
LRTC members racing in Saturday's Sprint event, a 0.3 mile swim, a 15 mile bike ride, and a 3.1 mile run are Eric Tanner, Bill Endicott, Steve Cegelski, Brooke Paige and Sarah Stephens.

Taking part in Sunday's 70.3 mile, "half-ironman" triathlon are David Martino, Cory Gucwa and Katarina (Kate) Bruchacova.

That event gets under way at 7 a.m. as the first wave of swimmers enters Lake Winnipesaukee for a 1.2 mile swim, followed by a 56 mile bike ride which goes to Loudon and then returns to Ellacoya, followed by a 13.1 mile run.
Martino, 22, of Laconia, is co-captain of the Plymouth State University men's cross-country team and has been taking part since in Timberman events since 2008.
A former member of the Laconia High School cross-country team, Martino says he was inspired by the example of his mother, Linda, who was a Timberman competitor, to enter the event. He raced in the sprint event for three years and this will mark his fourth year in the Ironman.

''I became enamored of the event. I like all three legs. I'm always looking to improve but the best thing about the event is that you always feel comfortable. You get to meet a lot of new people and it's not an ultra-competitive atmosphere. You have fun and there's a lot of camaraderie amongst the racers. It's a great experience,'' says Martino.

''It's a great event. My parents know Keith Jordan, who started the Timberman, and he really created something people like'' says Martino, who plans to continue competing as a tri-athlete once he graduates from college.

''I really get involved in the training and the race itself is like a reward for all the effort it takes.

The LRTC is a non-profit triathlon club based out of Laconia Athletic & Swim Club, which was formed about 10 years ago in response to the desire for training on the part of local athletes who wanted to participate in the Timberman event.
Many wanted to emulate the success of Randy Swormstedt of Laconia, who won back to back women's Sprint titles in the early years of the Timberman.

The club has about 35 members and members have group training with Tri Coach Suzan Ballmer of Breakaway Athletic Coaching and participate in races from throughout New England to the Nationals in Wisconsin. LRTC is a community-minded organization that supports a variety of local fund-raising efforts such as WLNH Childrens' Auction, the WOW Trail and had a strong presence in the Marshmallow Man event. LRTC members also participate in duathlons, trial runs, marathons, road races, bicycle hill climbs and open water swims.

As a non-profit organization, LRTC relies upon membership dues and the support of local sponsors — MC Cycle & Sport, Laconia Athletic & Swim Club, Rowell's Sewer & Drain, Expanding Horizons and LRGHealthcare.

For more information on membership registration or becoming a sponsor go to www.lakesregiontriclub.com or contact Maureen Nix at 528-2203.

Dave Martino of Laconia races in last year's Timberman Triathlon. (Karen Bobotas photo)

Last Updated on Friday, 15 August 2014 10:11

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WEEKEND - Over 3,000 athletes taking part in 15th annual Timberman Triathlon events this weekend

GILFORD — Well over 3,000 athletes will be congregating in the Lakes Region this weekend for the 15th annual Timberman Triathlon, grueling events which feature swimming, bicycling and and road running and attract top competitors from all corners of the globe.
Action gets under way Saturday morning at Ellacoya State Park on Lake Winnipesaukee where a Sprint event will be held consisting of a 0.3 mile swim, a 15 mile bike ride, and a 3.1 mile run. Some 1,400 athletes from all over the Northeast, including many from the Lakes Region, will be taking part.
The main event, a 70.3 mile, "half-ironman" triathlon gets under way on Sunday, Aug. 17, at 7 a.m. as the first wave of swimmers enters Winnipesaukee for a 1.2 mile swim, followed by a 56-mile bike ride which goes to Loudon and then returns to Ellacoya, followed by a 13.1 mile run. More than 2,000 will take part in the event, which has a festival-like atmosphere and first came to the Lakes Region in 2001.
The Timberman was started by Keith Jordan, who was just getting into triathlons, and at that time was working for the family business, Jordan's Ice Creamery in Belmont.
Jordan said he had taken part in his first triathlon in Maryland and was surprised by how far participants had traveled to take part. He said that set off a bell in his head. "I kept thinking, we live in such a beautiful place in the Lakes Region, why can't we do one here?"

The irony is that there were so few triathletes in the region at that time that Jordan had to market the Timberman as a national event, just to get enough competitors. That first year, they set the limit at 800 athletes, with a "sprint" triathlon for beginners or casual triathletes, and the "Half-Iron" race for the hardened athletes, named after the infamous Ironman competitions which involve a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike race and a full 26.2 mile marathon run.
The initial event sold out and within a few short years had gained a national reputation as one of the best triathlons in the country, a ''must attend'' event, and was turned into a two-day event with the Sprint race taking place on Saturday and the Half-Iron on Sundays.

That change, and other logistical adjustments, allowed Jordan's promotional company Endorfun Sports, to increase their capacity to 1,200 entrants in the Sprint and 2,000 for the Half-Iron.

He also started a half-marathon in Alton, known as the Big Lake Half-Marathon, and another triathlon event in Bristol, the Mooseman, and the Black Fly Triathlon festival in Waterville Valley, all of which attracted thousands of participants each year.

Jordan had by that time moved to Texas, where he had started two triathlons, and continued to return to New Hampshire for the Timberman, which he viewed as his baby, and the other events.

In 2009, Jordan sold the Timberman and Mooseman races to the World Triathlon Corporation, saying on his web site, "The races were taking their toll on people around me and on me. I didn't think we could continue at the level we wanted.''

He also sold the Big Lake Half Marathon and discontinued the Black Fly Triathlon. WTC discontinued the Mooseman event in 2012.

In 2012 Jordan's website Endorfunsports.com, carried a goodbye message from him which read "Thanks to all of you for making this last 13 years the best of our lives, and thank you for all of the memories that will always be with us. Remember, it's not goodbye. It's see you later."

But the race which he started, the Timberman, remains a major event on the WTC calendar, and continues to draw world class triathletes to the Lakes Region every August, as it did last year when the winners were Andy Potts of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Melissa Hauschildt of Australia.

Last Updated on Friday, 15 August 2014 10:10

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