LACONIA — Edward J. “Rusty” McLear, who helped turn around the economic fortunes of Meredith, and Scott Crowder, who grew his annual pond hockey tournament into a major regional event, are both excited about the prospect of developing a sports complex on the former Laconia State School property.
McLear, who is on a state committee charged with coming up with plans for redeveloping the 200-acre property, brought a folder with him to the panel’s last meeting. He said it contained about 25 sport complex projects around the nation.
“There are all different kinds,” McLear said. “They are family oriented. Parents bring their kids and the kids compete in tournaments.
“They are usually built in a tourist area so the parents have something to do while the kids are at practice or they bring their other children, or they stay for another two days or something like that, so it seems like it would fit here.
“I visited one that is under construction in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and it is going to be a heck of a facility. We’re not breaking new ground with this idea.”
The Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission is charged with turning the state-owned property at North Main Street and Meredith Center Road into something that will generate jobs and boost the economy.
A study is planned specifically on the economics of a sports complex.
“These do employ a fair amount of people, but what they also appear to really do in these communities is bring in a lot of people from outside who then go to other restaurants, go to other hotels, use facilities, golf courses, that sort of thing. So that the money gets spread out in the community,” McLear said.
In the 1980s, McLear and a partner purchased buildings in Meredith. Some were razed, but one was turned into the Mill Falls Marketplace, which helped foster the renaissance of Meredith into a commercial success and tourist favorite.
Crowder, of Meredith, began his Pond Hockey Classic tournament with 77 teams in 2010 and now has 275 and a waiting list for more. He said it brings in about $3 million in economic stimulus to the region.
There is an unmet demand for indoor athletic facilities in the Lakes Region, where the cold weather limits the season for sports like soccer, he said.
Crowder envisions a dome or some sort of facility with indoor turf.
But he is a hockey guy at heart, so he also interested in indoor ice. Crowder played collegiate hockey and is the son of former Boston Bruins player Bruce Crowder.
“We have a rink here in Laconia, but it’s not going to host major tournaments or draw people in,” he said.
“We wouldn’t be the first community to develop a sports complex. There are communities you can look at, different populations and demographics. That hopefully would give you a better idea of developing one here.
“There are also different ways they are organized, where it's private, public-private or fully public. They are around and they are definitely a driver of the economy. They have the ability to have broad community impact. Those that are run like a business, they need to be profitable.”