Vast Tiverton sports center takes shape

Quarter-mile running track, soccer, more fit within Longplex facility ·

TIVERTON — By any measure, the massive Longplex sports center under construction along Industrial Way a little north of Fish Road is imposing. It's clearly visible traveling in either direction north of Tiverton on Route 24
"In the scheme of things, it is a big building," says Jim Long as he guided visitors inside the facility. Mr. Long is the owner, developer, and the man who conceived of the center that carries his name. Inside, the facility is cavernous.
"The scale of the building as seen inside is different from how it's judged from the highway," he says. It's 430 feet long (almost one and a half times the length of a football field) and 280 feet wide, It encompasses 120,400 square feet.
The sports center sits on a 17.5 acre chunk of land Mr. Long bought from the town for $140,000 in two more-or-less back-to-back transactions in 2016.

Enthusiasm, but a long haul
From the time the town sold the land, there has been enthusiasm for the project.
"I think it's fabulous," school committee member Sally Black said then, when it was before the council.
"I'm very much in favor of this project," Stu Hardy, planning board chairman told the council.
Former Town Council member Dave Perry said, "I think we'd all like to see this happen."
"All in all it looks like a great plan," said former Public Works Director Steve Berlucchi.
Is it modeled after another similar facility, Mr. Long was asked recently, is there a template for it somewhere? The answer was no.
"It doesn't exist anywhere else," he said. It's the first of a kind. "It's not a cookie-cutter building."
Asked where he got the idea, he tapped his head. He'd been thinking about it for years, he said.
There have been benchmark moments ever since Mr. Long bought the land. The first tree was cut on August 5, 2016, and "the first piece of steel went up on November 18, 2016." Mr. Long said.
"There's been someone working in it all the time," Mr. Long said. At the end of last week concrete that had been poured for the second level was being finished and smoothed.
"I can actually see the finish line now," Mr. Long said. "My courts [e.g. for basketball, volleyball] are in storage and I'm hoping by the end of the month we'll start installing them. My goal is to get my first or ground floor in so I can open. And then the second and third floors will follow shortly after."

An open interior

The building is entirely open in the center, That's the space where courts and space for basketball, indoor soccer, roller hockey, volleyball, and the relatively new but extremely fast-growing sport of futsal will be located. From floor to ceiling the central open space is 38 feet tall.
The central space is ringed inside by three floors, tiered around the walls — the ground level, and a second and third floor. An indoor running track, about a quarter mile long, circles around the third (top) level.
Configured on the upper two levels, and lining the walls on the ground floor around the central sports courts or arenas, will be a variety of activities or functions: treadmills, a cardiac work-out area, office space for University Orthopedics, a restaurant and sports bar, a library or conference center (for people with laptops, or who want a quiet place to read while waiting), a karate center, a bouncy house and venue for birthday parties, two concession bars, a family amusement arcade.
The main entrance on the east side will have a skylight, and will afford access to an elevator to the upper levels.
Mr. Long has a list of people and organizations that have committed to being a part of the project (but he's reluctant to name them for business confidentiality reasons). They include, he said, soccer groups, and gymnastics, cheer, softball, futsal, volleyball and lacrosse organizations.

How's progress

He is cautious about predictions. "It seems like every time I say a completion date, it's a jinx, but I hope by the beginning of the year we'll be operational."
The parking lots are done, he said.
There have been hurdles — an access road for example — and expenses. Site work for the building alone was $3 million, he said. Mr. Long said the facility when completed will have cost about $10-12 million to build.
He took another step this year, separating ownership of the land from ownership of the building — in case something happened in the operation of the sports center, a liability-creating event, for example. As of March 7, 2017 a new corporate entity — Tiverton Recreation, LLC — owns the real estate, and Longplex, LLC owns and operates the sports complex business.
According to town tax assessor records, the land currently has a value for tax purposes of $409,500, and the building (though unfinished) has a value of $150,000, for a total assessed valuation of $559,500.
Mr. Long said he anticipates that the sports center will eventually generate an estimated $50,000-$60,000 in tax revenues for the town.
He said he expects that, when fully operational, the sports center will employ about 100 people, but cautioned that it's too early to tell now.
"It's been a long and painful process, but we're moving forward. Everything is good," he said.