Talk about a grand opening. On its first day back in business Saturday, the former Gorham Sports Center – renamed YourSpace – will host about 200 kids from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont for an all-day soccer tournament.

That night, young soccer players in the Westbrook-based Maine Metro Football Club take over the dome for their games.

“We’re booking up fast and furious,” said Adam Sturtevant, a parent, coach and member of Southern Maine Community Recreation Center, the nonprofit group that is leasing the facility from its new owner, Gorham businessman Jon Smith.

Smith finalized his purchase of the sports center on Wednesday. A youth coach and owner of Great Falls Builders Inc., Smith acquired the property for more than $1 million on Feb. 14 in a foreclosure auction.

“I can’t wait to see this place hopping,” he said, eyeing the exterior of the dome Tuesday. “I think it’s important, the potential is huge.”

“It is all about the kids and the community at large, and we have never lost sight of that,” said Sturtevant.

And, he emphasized, “It wouldn’t have happend without Jon Smith.”

The sports center, at 215 Narragansett St., closed last month following financial difficulties. It opened in 2004, and many local and regional youth teams have played on the artifical turf. In the auction, Smith bid $5,000 more than owners of the Portland Sports Complex, who bid $1 million.

Southern Maine Community Recreation Center plans on expanding events at YourSpace to serve more people in the region.

Smith mentioned the possibility of a bocci league one night a week, along with kickball and an outside walking trail around the perimeter of the 18 acres. He said the sports center had primarily been a soccer dome.

“We’re looking way beyond that,” Smith said, adding he wants it used to its fullest potential.

Outside basketball and volleyball courts are planned. There’s a shortage of playing fields in Gorham, and the group plans to build fields outside the dome.

“I think it will be good for everyone,” said Jon Smith’s wife, Cindy.

A makeover party to clean up and paint the office area was to be held Wednesday afternoon – “as soon as we get back into town with the keys,” Smith said.

Smith and his wife, parents of five children, have faith in the group’s board. “Everyone is working so hard on this,” he said, adding many more are working behind the scenes.

He said a nearby intersection of Narragansett Street with the bypass, which is under construction, would improve access for families in surrounding communities. “People will come from all over the place,” he said.

Smith, who has coached soccer, baseball, basketball and T-ball, grew up in North Gorham and his wife on Morrill Avenue in Gorham Village. They both attended junior high together at Charles Shaw School. He sat beside her in a seventh-grade class, she remembered.

Both graduated high school in 1986, he from Cheverus in Portland and she from Gorham. They were married in 1989.

He started Great Falls Builders Inc., in 1988. The couple, both 39, also owns commercial and rental properties.

The Smiths have two girls and three boys. Courtney, 17, is a Gorham High School senior, and Julie, 16, attends Cheverus High School and participates in gymnastics. Courtney is active in regional youth activities in connection with St. Anne’s Church, where her parents are parishioners.

The boys are Jacob, 13, in Grade 8, and twins Joey and Colby, 12, Grade 6, all at Gorham Middle School. Their mom said the boys are all soccer fanatics.

Cindy Smith is looking forward to seeing her children and others at play under the dome, as well as the social aspects it provides for adults.

“Hanging out with parents was fun – got to go back at it,” she said.

A first step for the nonprofit group would be to insulate the dome to save heating costs. Smith said a sprinkler system modification, which would keep pipes from freezing, would allow the dome to be heated only when events were being held.

“Parts are being overnighted as we speak,” he said Tuesday.

The group has begun raising money for insulation and to relocate lights and heads of the sprinkler system.

Steve Willis, also a member of the board, said recently the group is pleased that the resource would stay in Gorham. “We have a lot of work to do and we need a lot of help,” Willis said.

Smith said his winning auction bid was more than he hoped to pay, although he was prepared to go higher.

“We’re not whipping this out of our back pocket,” he said. “We have a good relationship with the bank.”

A CLOSER LOOK

Southern Maine Community Recreation Center is seeking donations of both time and money to insulate the building, which will reduce overhead expenses. The “Buy a Square and Show We Care” campaign has just been launched, where families, businesses and civic groups can purchase squares of insulation.

To get involved, contact Parker Cowand, SMCRC board member at 318-4259. Donations can be mailed to SMCRC, P.O. Box 325, Gorham, ME 04038.

Organizations interested in using the facility can contact YourSpace at 839-6767, or visit www.yourspacemaine.org.

(MUG Cindy Smith)(MUG Jon Smith)YourSpace


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