A rendering of Phase One of the MARC project, which will cost $6.2 million, according to the master plan published in May. Contributed by the Town of Brunswick

Pickleball, hailed as the “fastest growing sport in America” by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, provides legions of players a fun, accessible way to stay active.

Could it also offer a boost to Brunswick’s economy?

According to town officials, development experts and donors behind the long-awaited Midcoast Athletic and Recreation Complex, investing in activities like pickleball could make Brunswick a more attractive place to live, visit and spend money.

“I think every community in Maine has to start thinking about what it is that attracts young families and employers,” said Mike Lyne, chairperson of the MARC Advisory Committee. “This is one of those glaring examples — this is what people buy homes for.”

The Midcoast Athletic and Recreation Complex, a planned, multi-million-dollar hub of outdoor courts, playing fields and more, inched closer to reality Monday evening when the Town Council assigned $500,000 from Brunswick’s recreation impact fund and a matching federal Land and Water Conservation Fund Grant to pay for the project’s first elements.

Work on “Phase 1 Tier 1A” of the project, which will include eight pickleball courts, a skatepark and a trail around the complex’s perimeter, could begin as early as April, pending permitting approval and completion of a first wave of private fundraising, according to Economic Development Director Sally Costello. So far, the MARC Advisory Committee has raised about $75,000 toward the $120,000 in private donations it needs to move forward with the plan’s first steps, which will cost an estimated $1.12 million.


Costello expects donations will only cover about 10%-15% of each of the project’s stages, but she said public enthusiasm will play a key role in attracting the grants that will fund the bulk of the MARC. The facility could eventually include basketball courts, an aquatics center and an ice rink — amenities that could cost upward of $30 million.

Despite the high price tag, hundreds of community members have flocked to support the project, first by sharing their ideas in surveys and stakeholder meetings, and then by donating anything from $5 to thousands, Lyne said.

The 10-acre site where the Midcoast Athletic and Recreation Complex will be located. Contributed by the Town of Brunswick

By working closely with groups like the Maine Skateboard Association and Midcoast Maine Pickleball, Lyne said the Advisory Committee has been able to design better facilities and bring in donations from the people who hope to use the venue.

“Brunswick has done a really masterful job, I think, of bringing the stakeholders together,” said Maine Skateboard Association President Tobias Parkhurst, whose group is working to raise $30,000 to support the project. “At the end of the day, they’re going to wind up with a skatepark that serves the most amount of people as much as possible.”

Priority Real Estate Group has pledged $100,000 across the project’s phases in order to help fill what President and CEO Jim Howard said was a need for recreation opportunities in the Midcoast.

“In this day and age, the first thing we need to do is get all of our kids back outside to get some exercise and some fresh air, right?” he said. “If anything, the pandemic taught us how important that was.”


The MARC is not the only major project that could transform the region’s recreation landscape in coming years. Six Rivers Youth Sports is currently working to bring an ice rink to Topsham, and Brunswick, Bath and West Bath recently renewed a decades-old push for a bike path connecting the towns.

While investing millions into these amenities may seem frivolous at a time when high utility bills and inflation are leaving their marks on the budgets of individuals and towns, development experts say recreation projects can pay off in a big way.

“When you do have, for example, a pickle ball tournament or a soccer tournament, that brings people to the community,” said Brunswick Development Corporation President Larissa Darcy, who also serves on the MARC Advisory Committee. “Those people are staying in our hotels, and they’re dining in our restaurants, and they’re frequenting our shops downtown. In many cases it may have them decide to move here.”

To donate or learn more about the project, visit marcproject.org.

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