EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 22, 2008

Focus: Indoor facilities offer everything from basketball to 40-foot climbing walls

By Peter A. Martin

The SportsZone in Derry, N.H., is a buzz of activity. Its six basketball courts are packed with 12 teams — about 100 people, from high schoolers to men and women in their 40s.

"You should see the men's soccer league," said Dennis Reed, owner of SportsZone. "We have 72 teams now."

More and more across New England, athletes and local teams are flocking to multipurpose indoor facilities where they can play, and practice their skills year round. In fact, the SportsZone offers so many different types of recreation that they barely fit on Reed's business card.

SportsZone offers clinics and camps and leagues in sports like soccer, basketball, baseball and softball. Then there are batting and pitching cages, and Vertimax Jump training. There is even a 40-foot climbing wall.

The PhanZone in Hampstead, N.H., home of the New Hampshire Phantoms semi-pro soccer team, has three indoor soccer fields, all FieldTurf. In addition, the facility maintains an area for gymnastics training and offers clinics and lessons. It also houses soccer clinics, a dance school and a gym staffed with athletic trainers.

The PhanZone runs soccer leagues for all age groups and skill levels, from its Little Booters program for children 18 months and older to men's and women's over-40 leagues. The women's over-30 league has more than 100 players.

Some facilities, like Granite Fields in Kingston, N.H. have branched out into even larger endeavors.

"The facility used to just have soccer, indoor fields and some outdoor ones," said Mike Schena, Director of Golf at Granite Fields. "But five years ago, they took the outdoor fields out due to a lack of use and installed a beautiful 18-hole golf course."

The course is open to the public, but also accepts memberships for players who want to play more regularly. There is also league play on the course in the afternoons.

The facility still houses two indoor soccer fields and runs youth soccer leagues. Granite Fields also has lacrosse and field hockey teams from local high schools who use the fields to practice when the weather outside is not cooperative.

Granite Fields has batting cages and offers hitting clinics in softball and baseball as well as a cheerleading school and clinics on the second floor.

"The real advantage of places like this is the versatility," said the SportsZone's Reed. "We have all of the traditional sports and are able to do some not so traditional things as well."

For instance, in February, the SportsZone hosted a competitive agility dog show. They also host birthday parties and end-of-season parties for local youth teams. Reed said that parties on their climbing wall are the most popular.

The SportsZone also plays host to tournaments in many less traditional sports.

"We have held Wiffle ball tournaments, ultimate Frisbee tournaments, dodgeball and flag football tournaments, as well as AAU tournaments and practices for AAU and high school teams," said Reed.

At the PhanZone, there are wrestling clinics for middle and high school students, as well as craft and flower shows, battles of the bands, antique shows and bingo nights. The PhanZone even rents office space out to a private investigation firm.