2017-10-12 / Front Page

Newport Recreation Center movement springs to life again

By ARCHIE MOUNTAIN

NEWPORT — Exactly 20 years ago Newport Recreation Director P.J. Lovely was deeply involved in a movement to get support for a new recreation center in Newport.

“Recreation extends to everybody, it’s not just sports,” he said.

That was 20 years ago. During those two decades programs have been on the increase. And so have the participants taking advantage of those programs.

Trouble is, the Recreation Center building, the old New Hampshire Army National Guard Armory, has stayed the same size. There is no more room to squeeze in any additional programs.

At a 90-minute meeting attended by 50 Newporters back in 1997, lack of space at the old Armory was the No. 1 concern.

That story appearing in the Oct. 23, 1997 edition of the News Leader is reprinted in its entirety on Page 3. Not much has changed since then.

However, it now appears that a movement is resurfacing to reactivate the recreation study committee and bring the issue before the public once again. 

Lovely is still the Recreation Director and he recalled those sessions 20 years ago.

A what’s-on-your-mind gathering was held at the high school. Participants were given the opportunity to offer their thoughts on what they would like to see in a new Recreation Center if one is eventually built in Newport.

In an attempt to jump start a new discussion effort, Newport Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg said Friday he plans to ask the Newport Board of Selectmen to earmark up to $25,000 for the purpose of funding a feasibility study that will yield a building program. 

That program would include square footage needed for different functions, site analysis, options available and then determine which one looks the best and for what reasons along with a cost projection for each of the site options.

“We are going to look at the feasibility study that will be driven largely by the steering committee and also involve a number of public discussions,” Rieseberg said.

At the 2017 Newport Town Meeting voters approved $20,000 for a new recreation capital reserve-building fund. There is also $5,042 in a recreation revolving fund that is not part of the town’s general fund.

Lovely said he intends to get the recreation committee activated to work on a feasibility plan and study locations and buildings around town. The committee has not met for a year.

The old Towle building has already been toured by Lovely. “It has a lot of space, a lot of room and is an option worth considering,” the veteran recreation director stated.

At the old Armory, Lovely said there is space to do all of the present programs but not do them well. 

“Selling people strap-ped taxwise will be a major challenge,” Lovely said.

“Funding will be the major hurdle,” Lovely stated. “It will be harder to do without a fundraiser to minimize the tax impact.” 

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