Building a sports village

Building a sports village

David Boucher, left, and Joseph Fitzpatrick, the co-owners of the New England Sports Village in Attleboro, Mass., pose for a picture next to some hockey equipment at the entrance of The Barn Food & Spirits, which held its grand opening last Friday afternoon. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
New England Sports Village in Attleboro opens state-of-the-art hockey facility with restaurant; prepares to build aquatics center, hotel, field house

ATTLEBORO, Mass. – David Boucher knew something was wrong three winters ago when his 4½-year-old son was having temper problems every Tuesday morning, after coming home the previous night from a late practice with his hockey team and going to bed at 9 p.m.

“I went and researched why” the practice was so late, Boucher recalled, “and there was a lack of ice in the area, so at that point, I said, ‘I need to do something.’ “

What Boucher did was team up with his friend, Joseph Fitzpatrick, to create the New England Sports Village, a state-of-the-art sports complex located at 1395 Commerce Way, just a slap shot away from Route 95, off the Route 123 exit.

By next year, the complex will have everything – from top-notch athletic facilities to restaurants and lodging – a family would want in one location without having to travel to different destinations.

“Joe had a background in real estate and he said, ‘I know how I can get your idea done,’ “ recalled Boucher, “and this is what we accomplished. And it’s been awesome.”

The New England Sports Village currently has a large hockey facility, called NESV Ice, that’s more than 100,000 square feet – with two regulation rinks (a premier rink with 750 seats located in heated stands and a secondary rink with 250 seats), a shortened 120-by-65 rink, and a 20-foot rink exclusively for goaltenders to work out on – but it’s only the beginning of a $53 million project that promises to result in the mecca of youth sports in this part of the country.

On Friday afternoon, Boucher and Fitzpatrick welcomed the opening of The Barn Food & Spirits, a full-service restaurant that overlooks the premier rink, and on deck is the construction of an aquatics center behind the hockey facility that’s 52,000 square feet, offers an Olympic-sized 10-lane, 50-meter pool, two warmup pools, and outdoor recreational pools, and should be ready by the end of the year.

From there, a 150-room hotel will be constructed, and by the fall of 2018, a wellness center, with 12 tennis courts, a physical therapy clinic, a spa, and a health center, will be completed, as well as the piece de resistance: a 110,000 square foot, multi-sport field house for turf-related sports, such as soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse, as well as for basketball and volleyball courts. Outdoor soccer fields will also be located in the village.

With youth sports becoming a billion-dollar industry and parents shelling out an exorbitant amount of money for their children to have the best sports equipment and play on various AAU and travel organizations, the NESV is on the fast track to turn into a very profitable business.

But dollars and cents haven’t been the driving force behind Boucher and Fitzpatrick’s hard work.

“It’s been a lot of work, but you have to do this for the right reasons,” said Fitzpatrick, who hails from Attleboro. “You have to do this for the children and their families, and we want this to be a place that they look forward to visiting.”

“We want it to be an experience for the families and the parents, just as much as it’s great ice for the kids going out there to play,” added Boucher, who lives in North Attleboro. “If we can make parents feel a little bit more relaxed and make it enjoyable coming to the rink, they’re going to want to come more often, and maybe more kids will get an opportunity to play.”

Boucher and Fitzpatrick talked about their business as their sons, Keegan Fitzpatrick and Ben Boucher, sat down to eat the first food out of the restaurant’s kitchen, a cheeseburger with fries. Minutes after those dishes came out, one of the pizza chefs, Helder Vasconcelos, brought out his first creation, a “Mango Love” pizza with a thick crust and loaded with shrimp and pieces of mango.

“We built The Barn in five weeks,” reported Boucher. “No one said that we’d be able to get it done, just like no one said we’d be able to get the arena done, but we did. It’s easy to say, ‘No, you can’t,’ but it’s hard to say, ‘Yes, we did.’”

Construction of the hockey facility began in August 2015, and players began to skate there in late November. This past high school season, the Attleboro, North Attleboro, and Bishop Feehan hockey teams played their home games at NESV Ice instead of the outdated Aleixo Arena in Taunton, Mass. The Northeast Generals of the North American Hockey League, a junior league for players ages 20 and younger, also called NESV their home this winter, and in late February, the U.S. women’s national team also stopped by to work out.

And while the hockey rinks have drawn plenty of attention, they’re only a part of what’s included inside NESV Ice. Among the other things you’ll find are:

• An education room that is still under construction, but later this spring, will offer a space with desks and couches where children can study or do homework and use Chromebooks. “One rule,” said Fitzpatrick. “No video games.”

• If you want to play video games? No problem. There’s an entertainment center with some of today’s latest arcade games, an air hockey table, and a free-throw basketball game.

• A training center is next to the education room and offers plenty of weights to work with, as well as a large open turf area to stretch.

• An apparel company that also sells skates and other equipment is near the entrance to the NESV.

• Yogurt Beach, which has locations in Hopkinton and Plainville, Mass., will also open a store next month inside the NESV.

• Dunkin’ Donuts, which many parents can’t go without on an early morning inside a cold rink, has a mini restaurant near the two regulation-sized rinks. “We’re the only amateur arena in the country with a Dunkin’ Donuts inside it,” Fitzpatrick said proudly.

• A function room for parties on the bottom floor of the arena that leads out to the 3-by-3 arena is also under construction, with plans for it to be completed later this spring.

In addition to hosting tournaments and games, NESV also offers hockey programs, camps, clinics, and youth and adult leagues, as well as figure skating programs, public skating hours, and private training programs such as DAJ Hockey, which is run by director of hockey operations and former NHL center David Jensen, Mike Buckley’s GDS Elite for goaltenders, and Athletic Performance Training.

Visit www.nesportsvillage.com for more information.

A rendering of what the New England Sports Village is expected to look like once construction is completed. The current hockey facility is depicted at bottom.
Keegan Fitzpatrick, left, and Ben Boucher share a plate of French fries during the grand opening of The Barn Food & Spirits on Friday afternoon. The boys’ fathers, Joseph Fitzpatrick and David Boucher, are the co-owners of the New England Sports Village.
High school hockey players warm up on the New England Sports Village’s premier rink before the start of a tournament game last Friday afternoon.