By Douglas Karlson
“If you build it, they will come.”
So say the founders of Total Athletics, who are building a large indoor and outdoor sports complex in Barnstable that will serve local Cape and area youngsters in multiple ways, and be a destination for visiting athletes.
The brainchild of Managing Partners Mike Sherman and Warren Nighan, Total Athletics aims to provide safe and healthy opportunities for all ages.
According to Sherman, former football coach for the Green Bay Packers and Nauset Regional High School, it doesn’t matter if you’re an advanced athlete trying to shape up for college sports, an athlete who just wants to make the high school varsity team, or just someone in search of recreation, Total Athletics will provide a range of activities – both sports and non-sports. It will be a place for students to meet with tutors after school, and then work out in the batting cage or play a game of pick-up basketball. It will also offer yoga, pickle ball for seniors, adult hockey, bridge lessons, and more.
Sherman says he was motivated to start a project like Total Athletics following the tragic death of his godson three years ago. After graduating from law school, the young man underwent neck surgery and became addicted to opiates. He later died from an overdose. That tragedy led Sherman to want to do something about the growing opioid crisis. Like the football coach he is, he devised a game plan.
“I realized we ask kids to make great choices, but we don’t give them a lot of choices,” said Sherman. “Heroin attacks great families and with supportive parents. It makes no sense.”
Sherman, who grew up in Hyde Park and Northborough, has been a regular summer visitor to Cape Cod and now lives in Brewster. He decided to focus his efforts locally. “I had been in college football and national football, and we’re just at the point where we don’t want to move anymore. This was a natural fit for us.”
Originally, the former football coach pursued involvement in the proposed Sandwich Village Sports Complex.
That project hit a standstill, but it led to a meeting with Warren Nighan. The two decided to pursue their own plan.
That plan is a for 65,000-square-foot indoor sports facility on Merchant’s Way in Barnstable that will include an NHL-sized ice skating rink for hockey and figure skating. There will also be an indoor turf field with synthetic turf for baseball and softball, which can be converted for soccer and lacrosse, as well as extensive outdoor fields.
The rink will be home to a youth hockey program for 125 kids aged 5 to 17. The hockey program is currently running at Hyannis Youth and Community Center, and Sherman says the two organizations will work closely together.
“They’ve been a great alliance,” says Sherman.
Total Athletics will also offer women’s hockey as well. “We think girls’ hockey can be a big plus,” says Sherman.
The new facility will also be home to the Eastern Junior Hockey League’s Seahawks, a new junior hockey travel team for ages 17 to 22.
Players come from all over the country and are billeted in the same way players are for the Cape Cod Baseball League. They compete in the Elite Boston League, and many are vying for college athletic scholarships. Bill Zaniboni has been hired as head coach and general manager.
The project, estimated to cost between $10-12 million, has received a financing commitment from Salem 5 Bank.
Sherman says he wants Total Athletics to be a major draw for the Cape. As part of their planning, Sherman and Nighan commissioned a feasibility study to vet the demographics. They plan to position Total Athletics as a place for students who want to improve their skills in a number of sports, like soccer, baseball, field hockey, and ice hockey.
“I think there’s a lot opportunities to bring people to Cape Cod,” says Sherman.
In addition to attracting athletes from the Islands, Sherman notes that Plymouth and Bristol Counties have a combined population of more than one million people.
“They’re within an hour’s drive. We really believe we’re a destination,” he says.
Total Athletics will also host tournaments and sports workshops. Sherman says they plan to draw on the sizeable number of affordable rooms available at hotels during the off-season. Athletes will be coached by elite coaches. The idea is to appeal to students who want to be as good as they can be, whether that means making their high school team, or finding a way to advanced sports at the college level.
According to Sherman, five and a half million people visit Cape Cod in the summer. He thinks a family on vacation might send a child to soccer training or some other sports camp while they’re here. They also hope to retain the local population, and provide facilities for local schools, such as St. John II High School in Hyannis.
But Sherman is quick to emphasize that the facility will not be dedicated solely to athletics. He says there will be something for everyone, including art classes and an arcade. “I don’t just want to have a sports facility. I want a healthy place where kids can go.”
So far, plans and proposals have been drafted and land has been leased. On August 3, the Cape Cod Commission approved their plan. “They were great to us,” said Sherman. The site plan has also been approved by the Town of Barnstable, and the lot is now being cleared. The building is scheduled to open in October 2018, but the Astroturf fields will be ready in March.