EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

May 17, 2008

Sports park drops 'Zorb' company

AMESBURY — Just weeks before launching the region's first "Zorb ball" attraction, Amesbury Sports Park has abruptly dropped the company that was set to implement the activity after discovering its founders were involved in a bizarre "buried treasure" case that grabbed national attention.

The sports park has planned an extensive grand opening to promote the launch of the Northeast's first Zorb ball park — a hugely popular activity in New Zealand and overseas — where participants climb inside a giant, clear, inflatable ball and roll down a hill.

Park officials told The Daily News they planned to partner with Barry Billcliff and Matt Ingham of Zorb New England, who were going to provide the park with five Zorb balls, each costing $10,000 apiece. The pair would give exclusive rights guaranteeing no other facility within 70 miles of Amesbury could use Zorb balls from Zorb New England. It was to be Zorb New England's debut as well.

But park management abruptly reversed course shortly after a media demonstration at Woodsom Farm this week, when questions were raised about Billcliff and Ingham's involvement in a well-publicized 2005 case of alleged larceny of antique money from a Newbury barn.

"Amesbury Sports Park has decided not to sign an LLC with Zorb New England as of last night," Sports Park Vice President Mary Carol Fowler told The Daily News yesterday, adding the park had no prior knowledge of the 2005 case and that she was "stunned" to learn of it.

Zorb ball and a summer tubing program are still planned to start in June, she said, but the facility will find another vendor for the Zorb balls.

Billcliff, of Manchester, N.H., and a friend, Tim Crebase of Methuen, made national headlines in 2005 after claiming to have found $720,000 in antique money buried in the backyard of a friend's home in Methuen. They went on a media blitz, appearing on shows such as Good Morning America and CNN with their amazing story of buried treasure.

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