Concord ZBA grants variance to turf field project

  • A conceptual site plan of a 85,000-square-foot recreational facility proposed by NHSD Holdings LLC. Courtesy of Nobis Engineering Inc.

Monitor staff
Thursday, January 04, 2018

A pair of indoor turf fields may be appearing off Sheep Davis Road in the future.

The Concord Zoning Board of Adjustments granted a variance to NHSD Holdings LLC during a Wednesday night meeting. The decision will allow a commercial indoor recreational facility in an industrial and residential open space district, and paves the way for privately owned turf fields to come to the Capital City.

NHSD is looking to acquire 34 acres of land at 200 Sheep Davis Road from Manchester Sand, Gravel & Cement Co. Inc. and construct a large-scale indoor recreational facility.

The land, tucked in a crook of the Soucook River, has been used as a gravel pit and is bisected by industrial and residential open-space zoning districts. It is also partially subject to a Concord conservation easement.

The proposed 1.4 million-square-foot facility would consist of one or more inflatable domed buildings, each approximately 84,000 square feet and measuring 85 feet high, each containing a 350-by-240-foot turf field, according to a conceptual site plan drafted by Nobis Engineering Inc.

The building’s domes would be able to be put up or down, but the intention is to leave them up year-round, according to NHSD Holdings president Joel Hatin. There will be no seats or bleachers, according to the application.

Additionally, 20,000 square feet would be used for accessory office, meeting, concessions and bathroom/locker room space, as well as parking.

In contrast, the Douglas N. Everett Arena has 18,000 square feet and is 47 feet high at the center, according to the city’s website. Plans for an outdoor turf field at Terrill Park envision a single 360-by-260-foot field.

The Sheep Davis Road facility would be used primarily for athletic and recreational activities, and possibly recreation-related shows and demonstrations, like car or boat shows, during the off seasons, Hatin said. The size of the fields would allow for regulation-length soccer fields, he said.

Hatin said he has heard from several local sporting organizations that would be willing to use the space and said few, if any, similar structures exist in the state. He said it would be an opportunity to have a “focal point for athletic training in our state” right in Concord’s backyard.

But an abutter to the site, Ronald Mahoney, expressed concern about how much traffic would be coming to and from the site, although he wasn’t against the proposed use itself. He said he’s lived on the road for more than 40 years, and traffic has increased so much in the past two years, it can take him up to 15 minutes to leave his driveway.

“If cars are going to be turning in and out of there, it’s going to be chaos,” he said.

Attorney Phillip Hastings, who was representing NHSD, said the applicant would have to acquire a state Department of Transportation driveway permit before moving forward.

And board member Nicholas Wallner asked if the community should be worried that the domes could be subject to collapse.

Last year, two inflatable athletic complexes in the Granite State sustained snow damage. The Hampshire Dome in Milford collapsed after a tear was opened by snow sliding off the top, and The Bubble at Franklin Pierce University was forced to close after sliding snow damaged exit doors, causing them to leak air. The Bubble previously collapsed in 2011 and 2013. Both inflatable domes had bubbles made of PVC-coated polyester fabric and were held up by internal air pressure from fans.

Nobody was hurt in either incident and The Bubble, which reopened after a week following repairs and has remained upright since.

Hatin assured board members that technology has changed how inflatable domes deal with snow and that no one would be on the roof.

The board denied the NHSD a second variance that would have allowed the applicant to have outdoor facilities as well, citing insufficient information as to what kind of outdoor use the applicant would want.

Hatin said they were potentially considering having a smaller, outdoor turf field for athletes who prefer to be outside, but that would depend on the demand.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)