LACONIA — The idea of building a sports complex on the former Laconia State School property is receiving public attention ahead of the Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission’s July 30 meeting.
Scott Crowder, the Meredith man who grew his annual pond hockey tournament into a major regional event, is behind a coalition urging the state commission to develop 80 to 100 acres of the property into “the premier indoor/outdoor sports complex in the Northeast.”
His group, the Lakes Region Sports Coalition, wants the state panel to approve a new feasibility study focusing specifically on a sports complex.
Camoin Associates, a consultant hired by the commission, has produced a report saying residential-driven development would be the most feasible option for the 250-acre site located at Meredith Center Road and North Main Street. A mixed-use concept with a resort was listed as a second option and a sports complex was listed as a third scenario.
The report described details of a potential sports complex.
“The specifics of this development would depend on willing and able partners and businesses, but would be primarily driven by the development of a large sports complex designed to be a destination for amateur sports events and tournaments, including supporting infrastructure and amenities,” the consultant said.
“In addition, this redevelopment scenario would include a residential component and a supporting hotel and event space,” the report said.
Crowder thinks there would be plenty of support, interest and advantages for his proposal.
“We have already engaged with Sports Facility Advisors, the leading sports facility development company in the United States, to conduct a feasibility study and economic impact analysis for this development,” he said. “Once the commission approves this step, we will work closely with SFA to develop the size and scope of the development pertaining to specific sports offerings and facilities to be built.”
Crowder, of Meredith, who is on the Lakes Region Tourism Board, said his Pond Hockey Classic tournament shows how a sporting event can boost the local economy.
His tourney started with 77 teams in 2010 and now has 275 and a waiting list for more.
“The weekend that the tournament is held used to be dead before the Pond Hockey Classic came,” he said. “Now, hotels are full and vacation rentals are full that weekend. The event brings in just under $3 million in economic stimulus.”
Such a sports complex could provide indoor venues for sports such as lacrosse and soccer, which are not suited to outdoor play in the cold weather months. It could also become a regional home for hockey.
“This is the best and most viable option,” Crowder said. “There’s a lot of research out there on what a sports complex can do. It can be a vehicle of change in a region.
“It could help keep kids off the street, help fight drug abuse, promote the health and wellness of our citizens. It could stimulate tourism and the local economy year round.”
In addition to competitive sports, the facility could offer recreational opportunities for young and old and be attractive to those who move into homes that could be built on and off the old State School property.
The city has changed its Master Plan to encourage more residential development, with a view toward providing the housing that will be needed if the area is to grow its workforce and boost the local economy.
Crowder said there are other examples of sports complex projects that have boosted local economies, including:
The National Sports Center in Blaine, Minn., which has had an estimated economic stimulus impact of $77 million.
Rocky Top Sports World, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which has had a $35 million impact.
Commission Chairman George Bald said many options are still under consideration for the property. Now that Camoin Associates has written its draft strategic plan for the property, another firm, NBBJ, which has a Boston office, is to produce site layout recommendations for three redevelopment concepts, including roadways, walkways, site features and buildings. The consultant is also to examine the potential for providing access to nearby Ahern State Park.
“There’s a wide variety of things we’re looking at,” Bald said. “As time moves on, we will to continue to narrow it down.”
Bald said he hopes to have specific concepts for the property in hand by the end of the year for presentation to the state Legislature.