There’s no shortage of green areas in the Upper Valley, but Mother Nature can make it difficult for those who want to play outdoor sports. Rain on Wednesday means teams may have to stay off the field until a Friday night game. Snow in October may cut a season short.
“There was, and continues to be, a real need for access to artificial turf. Where we live, the shoulder seasons are difficult to get outside and play on grass fields due to frozen ground, mud, and unplayable surfaces,” said Dan McGee, one of the three founders of New England Sports Park. “The turf allows for outdoor play pretty much all year long. We work hard to keep the fields clear of snow and ice during the winter. And they are absolutely ideal for outdoor soccer in November, December, March, and April.”
Founders Bill Miles, Ben Lovejoy, and McGee had a vision for a small soccer and street hockey facility in downtown Lebanon. “Our hope was we could create a facility that supported the growing need for outdoor recreation and provided a unique experience unavailable elsewhere in the Upper Valley,” McGee said.
The CCBA provided the perfect location and a connection with the community. NESP opened in 2021 with two turf fields — a large field (100 by 60 feet) and a small field (100 by 50 feet) — and a sport court that allows for street hockey.
“The predominant use for the turf is soccer. Small turf footprint with hockey type boards around the outside is perfect for adult 5v5 soccer or a couple dozen young kids learning to play However, we have also had field hockey, baseball, and lacrosse groups use it,” McGee said.
Before NESP, kids had to travel long distances for access to turf — and even access to high-level soccer instruction. Today it is home to Lightning Soccer, an Upper Valley soccer club offering competitive soccer players ages 6 to 19 the chance to learn, train, and develop under the guidance of qualified coaches.
“The sports park builds off our motto of ‘more touches, less travel.’ We have hundreds of kids coming through the sports park all year learning the critical fundamentals of soccer,” McGee said.
NESP feels strongly the facility should be open to everyone who wants to use it. During CCBA’s operating hours, when the facility is not rented to a league or organization, or individual, the field is open to the public for free. The park is used for soccer, street and inline hockey, field hockey, lacrosse, birthday parties, and general recreation and fun. Adults often use it for pick-up games or leagues.
“NESP is a Public Benefit Corporation and part of our mission is to provide recreational field access at no or low cost to the general public,” McGee said. “It was built for the love of our community and the games we all play.”
Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital is one of NESP’s sponsors.
“APD’s sponsorship helps keep the park up and operating. With all the free community access we provide and with the Lightning scholarships we support — $20,000 over the last two years — we would not have a sustainable operation without support from our sponsors,” McGee said. “Sponsorship revenue also allows us to maintain an abundance of free community access. We are constantly looking for new and creative ways to meet the increasing demand for turf and our facilities.”