NEW LONDON — The New London Outing Club has begun planning for a new indoor recreational facility, formally inviting the public to contribute to the process following a community forum last week.
The facility will serve the needs of the Kearsarge-Lake Sunapee Region, providing year-round recreational, social and educational programs.
President of the outing club Laura Pillsbury explained during the community forum held on Thursday, Nov. 8, that a steering committee was formed in 2017 to evaluate community needs and to explore potential solutions.
Pillsbury explained to the more than 50 people in attendance what the committee identified as some of the organization’s current challenges, including increased demand for additional programming and lack of space.
New programs such as basketball and field hockey, as well as steady growth to their existent programs, have put strain on the organization’s resources.
In 2018, the outing club registered over 1,000 new participants.
Meanwhile, the community continues to approach the outing club for rental space, but the organization cannot always accommodate every request.
The recent closure of Grantham Indoor has increased requests, and the outing club responded by taking on displaced adult soccer programs.
Additionally, the New London Outing Club’s lease with SAU 65 — which allows them to use the gym, stage, music room, and field areas at the former Kearsarge Regional Middle School — will expire in 2021.
As a consequence of these developments, the committee recommended the creation of a new indoor facility.
The committee envisions this facility as being an approximately 35,000-square-foot building that contains a gymnasium, turf field, multipurpose kitchen area, activity rooms and community-use rental spaces.
The committee identified Woodward Park on Parkside Road in New London as a convenient location. The organization also owns the land, making it cost-effective.
The community forum served as a way for the steering club to introduce the plan to the public and to answer questions. They also are seeking help from the public by asking anyone with ideas or expertise to join the four subcommittees.
The subcommittees are marketing and fundraising; site and design; facilities needs assessment and facilities management.
While the steering committee has done a lot of work to reach this point, they need more support to finalize the plans and eventually put them into action.
In addition, the organization is beholden to very little of the steering committee’s initial plans. For example, they will consider site locations other than Woodward Park if someone offers a good suggestion.
A member of the audience asked the steering committee if they plan to fund the project entirely through fundraising.
Joe Cardillo, a member of the steering committee, responded that while they plan to look into loans and grants, the organization will have to launch an aggressive capital campaign
“In no way are we asking taxpayers to step up,” Cardillo added. “This is totally a private initiative.”
At this point in the process, the committee does not have an estimate of how much money will need to be raised. The project’s cost will be driven by the subcommittee’s work.
Penny Murano asked about the extent of the town’s involvement.
The Outing Club has had conversations with Town Administrator Kim Hallquist, who was in attendance on Thursday night. They have also reached out to other towns in the region.
Cardillo explained that if the facility cannot technically be built at Woodward Park because it is a R-1 zone. There are ways to work with the town to address that issue, though.
“We’re doing this and moving forward. We have to do it for our group to survive,” Bubba Williams, another steering committee member, said.
“Mr. Woodward is here with his wife. The reason that the outing club is here at all is because of his legacy. I do not want what he did for all these years to go away.”
The audience, many of who expressed great appreciation for the outing club, responded with loud applause in recognition of Jo and Sumner Woodward.
The next meeting will be held on Jan. 30 at 6:30 p.m. in the SAU 65 Meeting Room.
The steering committee hopes to have populated the subcommittees by then and will report on the work conducted since Thursday’s meeting.
Several people signed up for the committees following the public forum, but those interested in offering input should contact the Outing Club at (603) 526-8321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.