A flurry of construction activity is underway at Starland on Route 53 in Hanover. The aging amusement park and arcade are getting a facelift, and a massive sports and recreation complex is being built where Starland’s driving range once stood.
Scheduled to open by spring 2013, the new indoor athletic facility will be called the University Sports Complex at Starland. It will house two full-size turf fields that can be used for soccer, lacrosse, and flag football, along with eight wooden basketball courts, which can be converted into 16 volleyball courts.
The go-karts, batting cages, and miniature golf that made Starland famous will reopen in the spring as well.
Two old buildings on the property are coming down to make way for the 163,000-square-foot complex, which will consist of four interconnected steel-framed buildings. Two 63,000-square-foot buildings will house the athletic courts and fields, and a 7,000-square-foot building will house locker rooms, bathrooms, offices, and a conference room.
The 30,000-square-foot two-story building in the front will house arcade games, laser tag, and a snack bar that overlooks the wooden courts and turf fields, so people can eat and watch the sports teams in action below.
Over the years, Starland had become a popular destination for families in the area. Since the 1960s, youngsters have flocked in to drive the go-karts, swing at pitches in the batting cages, and play arcade games.
Starland’s founder, Robert Kilmain, sold the park in 2002, and the park struggled financially through the tough economy.
Last year, Norwell resident John Poirier formed Starland Holdings LLC with a group of local investors and bought the 30-acre property from South Coastal Bank for $2.7 million.
Poirier, a police officer who has three children and has coached youth sports teams, says he saw an increasing need for more indoor courts and fields.
He said he used to take his children to Starland, and the youngsters on the basketball and hockey teams he coached also loved going there.
“The family atmosphere there was good,” he said. “We’re going to try to revive that.”
Once the new complex is completed, he said, “It’s going to be a beautiful year-round operation.”
Poirier said that new features and attractions will be added. The outdoor rock climbing wall will be extended on the side of the building. The go-karts will be replaced, the mini-golf course will get a facelift. “It will all be updated,” he said.
The driving range is gone — at least for now. Poirier said it’s possible that a driving range could be brought back in the future. And the new owners are also considering bumper boats and bumper cars, although details have not been finalized.
The focus now is on getting the steel buildings up before winter sets in.
Several contractors are doing the construction work. The complex was designed by Shawn Malloy of CBT Architects in Boston, and the civil engineering work was done by Merrill Associates Inc., based in Hanover.
“It’s going to be a nice addition to Route 53,” said Peter G. Palmieri of Merrill Associates Inc.
The project was approved by the town in May, according to Margaret Hoffman, Hanover’s assistant town planner. Initially, the Hanover Planning Board was concerned about an increase in traffic, but a subsequent traffic study showed that “Route 53 should be sufficient for the traffic that’s anticipated,” she said.
Hoffman said the sports complex will be “a great asset to the town” because there are so many athletes and youth sports teams in the area.
“Starland has always been a big part of town,” she said. “This is certainly a revitalization of it. I think it’s going to be a positive thing for the town.”