June 21, 2018
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Bath residents propose regional indoor sports arena

By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff

BATH, Maine — A yearlong dream for some local men to build an indoor sports arena for midcoast Maine took another step forward Thursday when the idea breezed through Bath’s Economic Development Committee en route to preliminary City Council consideration next month.

Kevin Bachman and David Matero propose building a nearly $1.5 million arena for use by local schools as well as adult indoor soccer and lacrosse leagues. With a detailed business plan and architectural designs in hand, the duo on Thursday sought the city’s written commitment to the project regarding a parcel of vacant land at the Wing Farm Industrial Park.

“The whole point is to bring affordable indoor sports to Bath,” said Bachman, a Bath-based contractor and soccer enthusiast who is leading the project. “There’s always an issue of available space and this would give people a place to go that’s affordable and closer than Portland.”

Bachman, who has served as Morse High School’s soccer coach, is pursuing the project with the creation of a nonprofit organization called the Bath Sports Club, which among other things will make Bachman eligible to apply for a range of grant funding. Bachman hopes that effort will attract $400,000 or more and said he plans to finance the rest of the project through lenders.

The proposed 16,000-square-foot facility, which is tentatively named the Bath Football Center — with “football” referring to what most of the rest of the world calls soccer — will be an ideal venue for a variety of sports clinics, practices and games, said Bachman, who estimated it could generate more than 10 jobs, primarily during the winter and early spring months. Drawn into the design is 1,000 square feet that could be leased to an outside organization as well as a lounge and a snack bar.

The city-owned property in the industrial park is subdivided already and has utility infrastructure installed, which City Manager Bill Giroux said makes the plot “shovel-ready.” With the groundwork done and approved by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Environmental Protection, the only other nod needed from the city likely would be site-plan approval from the planning board.

“I think we can come to some sort of agreement that works for everyone,” said Giroux.

Members of the Economic Development Committee reacted favorably, but weren’t without a few suggestions. David Sinclair, who is chairman of the Bath City Council, said he would like to see full locker rooms, or at least shower facilities, included in the design so users of the facility could wash up if they want to go to a Bath restaurant after their game or practice.

Bachman and Matero, who is the architect on the project, said they’re open to adding showers, but that in their experience, full locker rooms at facilities like this one are underused.

City Councilor Andrew Winglass said he saw “a lot of potential” in the idea of an indoor sports arena.

Bachman said his immediate need from the city is a letter of intent or possibly a purchase-and-sale agreement that he can show to banks and potential donors.

“We need to have a place to build it,” he said. “Some people have asked me, ‘Why not go to Brunswick?’ That’s not the point. The point is to stay in Bath.”

The City Council’s commitment to the project is tentatively scheduled to be discussed in executive session at its April 4 meeting.

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