Soccer club that courted Freeport buys Topsham dome

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FREEPORT — Seacoast United soccer club says its desire to build a sports arena in Freeport is not off the table, even though the club is buying the Howard Sports indoor facility in Topsham.

Paul Willis, Seacoast’s director of development and finance, said the nonprofit club plans to close on the Howard Sport purchase next week. It has leased the facility at 20 Atwood Road in Topsham for the past three years.

“We are still pursuing everything in Freeport as well,” Willis said Wednesday. “Our commitment is to do something in Freeport, but even if we are approved tomorrow, it is going to take some time.”

Willis said the opportunity to purchase Howard Sports, which includes the domed turf fields and separate Roller World skating rink, “in some ways came out of the blue.”

“Really, the deciding factor in us doing this has nothing to do with Freeport,” he said. “We had an opportunity to take advantage of something we’ve never been able to before.”

Willis said Seacoast plans to make improvements, offer more programs, more sports and involve the community in Topsham.

In response to concerns expressed by some Roller World patrons, he also said Seacoast has not made any decisions about the roller skating rink’s future.

“We fully intend to try and work hand in hand with the communities (we have facilities in) to see if we can help promote a healthy lifestyle for children and adults,” he said. “All of it is a work in progress.”

The Freeport proposal, Willis said, still represents a “huge commitment” for Seacoast, even though there have been obstacles in Freeport that recently prompted club officials to say they would look at other towns.

Discussions about a Seacoast facility with turf fields or an indoor arena in Freeport have been going on for nearly three years. Most recently, the Planning Board voted 4-3 on Nov. 2 against recommending an overlay district to allow the project in the Rural Residential 1 zone, near the town-owned Hunter Road fields.

The board also unanimously agreed not to allow recreational outdoor facilities in all of RR-1, a district that makes up 70 percent of the town.

But Willis said Seacoast will continue to try to make the proposal work.

The Town Council will hold a workshop on Seacoast United’s proposal on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012, from 5-7 p.m. in Town Hall.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson.