Steve Gates has run marathons. He’s run the Manchester Road Race 52 times. He knows the power of persistence.
Over a decade ago, Gates had an idea for a community indoor sports facility in Manchester similar to the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven, which hosts indoor track meets, wrestling championships, basketball games and other high school and youth sports events.
Since then there have been plans drawn up, sites examined behind Manchester High School and also on a town-owned plot of land off Broad Street. There are plans with a track. Plans with a track and a soccer field. Plans with a track, a soccer field and a practice soccer field.
But there were other projects the town needed to finish. Gates, who served on the town’s Board of Directors from 2011-2019, retired from the board. Then the pandemic hit and many projects were shelved.
About a year ago, Gates, 68, started thinking about the indoor facility again and decided to revive the project.
“We did all this work and we were in agreement about the inadequacy of indoor facilities,” Gates said last week. “The need to provide youth programming options, adult recreation programming options as well as senior programming options for recreation was extremely important. This facility would give all of that a boost.”
Manchester Mayor Jay Moran is still interested.
“It’s on the back burner; it hasn’t been taken off the stove, so to speak, but Steve is trying to get it back on the front burner and get us to look at it again,” Moran said. “He is dedicated to this; he’s not going to give up.”
There is no indoor facility with a competition-level track in northern or central Connecticut that could host a large number of athletes or teams. In the winter, the track teams trek to New Haven to compete. The conference and CIAC state indoor meets are held at Floyd Little, which opened in 2002, as is the State Open wrestling tournament and state tournament basketball games.
“When a community has an opportunity to build a facility like that, it’s not only going to benefit the community in terms of programming for kids and adults, but it’s also going to impact opportunities for kids state-wide,” CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini said of the project. “If you have a facility like that, especially if you have one in the center of the state, I think it will be easy to fill it and it will make a very positive impact on the Manchester community as well as student-athletes statewide.”
Gates ran his first Manchester Road Race as a junior at Manchester High in 1969 and went to Eastern Connecticut, where he became the first athlete to compete in the Division III national championship in cross country (1974) and track and field (1975). He is in the school’s sports Hall of Fame.
He initially had the idea for the facility in 2010 when the board of education ruled that the Manchester indoor track teams could no longer practice in the school’s hallways after school due to safety issues. At the time Gates was the president of the high school PTA.
“The hallways of Manchester High school were where I started to run as a sophomore in the late ‘60s,” he said. “They tried to use the gym or …….