Training fields

Portsmouth NH is considering demand for pickleball courts, hockey rink and pitches


PORTSMOUTH — When Mayor Deaglan McEachern looks out the window of City Hall, it’s not unusual for him to see people playing pickleball on the playgrounds at nearby South Mill Pond.

“People, rain or shine, are there all day. It’s great for their cardiovascular health and it’s great for the health of the community,” he said. “Plus, there’s also a community building aspect.”

The city has launched what it calls a comprehensive recreational needs study to create a plan for the city.

McEachern noted that when people think of recreation, they often think of young people, but the study aims to address the recreation needs of the entire community, regardless of age.

The city will consider a host of activities to meet the city’s future recreation needs, according to McEachern and Director of Recreation Todd Henley.

Possibilities include building a multi-purpose indoor sports facility through a public/private partnership near the community campus – which could include a long-awaited skating rink – building additional grass courts and of course adding pickle courts ball, they said.

City officials opened the city’s first new playground in decades last year near the community campus.

Henley said the land is in use “constantly, seven days a week” and the city plans to install lights there this spring.

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Last year, the city council also approved the construction of a new skatepark off Route 33 at what is known as “the stump dump.”

Portsmouth Recreation Director Todd Henley shows off the new grass playing field near the Community Campus.  The city is carrying out a study on leisure needs.

Community input is welcome

A key part of the study, they said, is hearing from residents of all ages and recreational interests, they said.

“I want to hear residents talk about what they feel is missing,” Henley said.

Both to submit your comments to the municipal authorities and to keep up to date with the progress of the study of recreational needs, you can visit the special website web page that the city has created for the project on the city website.

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“We want to recognize the current needs and current trends in recreation in our city and see if the city has the services to meet them,” Henley said.

For example, when the Recreational Needs Study was last updated in 2016, there was no discussion of pickleball courts, he said.

“He seems to have definitely caught on here. These courts are pretty much in use every day for most hours of the day,” Henley said. “I was a little shocked at how much they’ve already been used.”

Portsmouth Recreation Director Todd Henley sits in the stands at the new grass playing field near the Community Campus.  The city is conducting a recreation needs study that will look at more playgrounds, more pickleball courts, or a potential indoor multi-sports complex at the community campus

It’s not just sports leagues

He pointed out that when many people think of recreation in the city, they only think of sports leagues.

“It’s not just about recreation. No idea is worth hearing whether it brings enrichment opportunities for children, adults or the elderly,” he said.

Other recreational opportunities could also focus on more programs related to fitness, water sports, cycling and access to fresh water, he added.

“With the pandemic, there’s been a lot more focus on individual sports and outdoor activities,” Henley said.

A multi-sports complex in Portsmouth?

City Council voted in March 2021 for City Manager Karen Conard to create a request for proposals process for “a public/private sports complex” in Portsmouth.

The city’s recreation committee began holding preliminary discussions in 2020 with Edge Sports Group in Wellesley, Massachusetts, about building a sports complex, potentially on city-owned land adjacent to the community campus.

Typically, when Edge Sports has entered into these public/private partnerships with communities, they pay the full cost of building and operating recreation facilities on municipally owned land.

Brian Devellis, the chairman of Edge Sports Group, previously told City Council in 2021 that a sports complex in Portsmouth could potentially include “at least an ice cap and a half and we know we have at least one pitch in terms of what we could rent, what we could use.

“All our surfaces are now year-round. These are all dynamic spaces that could serve a multitude of sports,” he said.

That discussion, Henley said, led to the launch of the Recreational Needs Study.

“For me, the first steps were figuring out what something like this would look like,” he said. “Now we hope to know what kinds of recreation needs the city faces.

McEachern thinks ‘a bigger investment in an indoor sports complex in Portsmouth would be great’.

“But I want to know what the people of Portsmouth think about this,” he said.

What about an indoor hockey rink?

He agreed that if such a complex included an indoor hockey rink, it would help improve and promote the Portsmouth High School/Newmarket hockey team.

But it could also make Portsmouth ‘a youth hockey destination’.

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Based on Portsmouth’s thriving food and arts scene – as well as the number of hotels the city already offers visitors – hosting youth hockey tournaments could make the city “a New Brunswick destination.” England nationally and potentially if we build the right facility,” McEachern said.

Portsmouth/Newmarket junior Hobey Rolfe shoots in the 2022 Division I men's hockey game against St. Thomas Aquinas at Southern New Hampshire University Arena in Manchester on Saturday, March 12.

Portsmouth Secondary School athletic director Tom Kozikowski said in terms of desired facilities, “obviously a hockey rink is something Portsmouth have been asking for and looking for for a long time.”

Because the town does not have its own rink, children who want to play hockey in younger leagues or on the high school team must travel to Exeter or Dover to play or practice, he said. he declares.

“I am a hockey dad. When my son was playing we had to go to Exeter or Dover ice rink or Phillips Exeter Academy to play,” he said.

For many parents, they just can’t commit to driving their kids to another city at 7 a.m. or 4 p.m. for practices, Kozikowski said.

Despite this, he said, there remains “a huge love and passion” for hockey at Portsmouth.

This year, the Portsmouth-Newmarket combined hockey team made it all the way to their first-ever Division II state championship game before falling to undefeated top seed St. Thomas Aquinas.

Despite this, they have to play their home games in Dover.

He hopes this year’s team will “be forever remembered as the guys who put the hockey program on the map.

“We’re a great town in New England, and we don’t have our own hockey rink, and we really should,” Kozikowski said.

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