EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

February 6, 2013

Bocce balls are rolling

New Sons of Italy lodge features state-of-the-art courts

METHUEN — The calls are coming from as far away as Brooklyn.

When you’ve built indoor bocce courts as impressive as the four inside the brand-new Methuen Sons of Italy Lodge 902 on Merrimack Street, you’re bound to generate plenty of buzz, says lodge president Armand Buonanno.

“The real focus of the building when we designed it was the bocce courts,” said Buonanno. “It’s a 10,000 square foot building and 60 percent of it is dedicated to bocce.”

Bocce has roots dating back to the Roman Empire. The object of the game is for individuals or teams to roll large balls or bocces toward a smaller target ball, known as a pallino. The side with their bocces closest to the pallino earns points.

But these aren’t just any bocce courts. Buonanno said the closest comparable indoor courts are located in Cleveland. They were constructed with the help of two Italian craftsmen and feature a fast-playing surface made of rubber and sand.

The $80,000 courts are the centerpiece of a $2.5 million relocation project that started in 2010, when Lodge 902 sold its long-time home at 155 Marston St. in Lawrence. That building has since been demolished and is now home to Commonwealth Chevrolet.

The lodge’s new home at 459 Merrimack St. (routes 110/113) is located next to Simone Farm near the Haverhill line. The lodge received an occupancy permit from the city last week and Buonanno said he hopes to acquire a liquor license by the end of the month.

An open house is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 28, at 9:30 a.m.

The bocce balls started rolling at the new lodge Monday night when 16 teams kicked off a 15-week season. Bocce will be played there six days a week, including a kids’ league on Saturdays.

The atmosphere at present is social rather than competitive. But Buonanno said he’s already received calls from bocce teams based in Brooklyn looking to play at the facility.

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