By Mike Zhe
Hampton Union, June 7, 2013
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Final architectural plan [Courtesy The Rim Sports Complex]
HAMPTON — Mike McDonnell has seen his Great Bay Volleyball Club grow, literally, beyond its walls.
Started by him and some other coaches eight years ago, Great Bay last year welcomed 226 players to try out for 12 travel teams and three more in-house teams. Its numbers have increased every year as it holds sessions at places like the Rochester Community Center and New Heights in Portsmouth.
Starting this summer, it will house its operations under one roof. A new roof.
The area's newest recreational facility, the Above the Rim sports complex, is expected to open this summer. Construction on the 36,000-square foot indoor facility began in February.
According to developers Peter Maher of Exeter and Tom Viviano of Hampton, the complex will offer everything a young athlete needs, from nutrition and fitness programs overseen by Exeter Hospital, to team sports and skill development. There will be five basketball/volleyball courts, and a strength and conditioning area.
In other words, one-stop shopping for developing athletes.
"There's no facility that's taking the approach that we're taking," said Viviano. "This is something that's unique."
The Rim's list of tenants also includes Great Bay Volleyball, the Seacoast Spartans AAU basketball club, the Melrose, Mass.-based Visionary Basketball Camp and Zero Gravity Basketball. The Boston Celtics will put on a week-long basketball camp Aug. 19-23 featuring Hall of Famer Dave Cowens.
The facility is located adjacent to the Seacoast United Soccer Club on Winnacunnet Road, from which it's leasing the land. Maher and Viviano point to the Seacoast United model, offering various programs for all skill levels and ages, as one it will try to emulate.
"If we could end up being like Seacoast United," said Viviano, "I think Peter and I would be very happy. They've done so much in this community."
"(Executive director) Paul (Willis) and (chief operating officer) Ian (Burgess) have done a great job growing the brand," said Maher.
For Great Bay Volleyball, a Jr. Olympic club, the facility gives it the opportunity to centralize its operations.
"I think it's great," said McDonnell, who is also the varsity coach at Exeter High School. "Through all the woes of the economy, sports have continued to grow. I think they're going to fill a niche that hasn't been filled in the Seacoast for a while."
The idea from the complex was born a few years ago, when Viviano was driving is son all over the region to play in AAU basketball games.
"He found a need," said Maher, "traveling with his boy up to Maine, over to Derry, down to Boston ...; there was not a local facility. It's really Tom's brainchild."
The project encountered opposition last year from the Hampton Conservation Commission over a wetlands issue. It got approval from the Planning Board in September.
Maher said once it's up and running, the club could be attracting 8,000 to 10,000 people a week through its various teams and programs.
"This is a great facility for the community that I hope people will be able to come to and leave happy," said Maher.