Softball is among the many sports offered by Casco Bay Sports. photo/Tom Major
The Other CBS, Pt. 1
A quick scan of the City of Portland’s Recreation Program Guide might suggest we live in a poor place for athletic adults. While the City’s youth sports programming is strong, the only team sports for adults are basketball, softball and cornhole. Non-competitive, individual activities include fitness classes, yoga, Qi Gong, line dancing, Zumba, and self-defense.
Fortunately, Casco Bay Sports has developed a full range of sports options for the 21+ set.
Fifteen years ago, Pat Hackleman was a recent arrival in Portland. With a Sports Management degree from UMass Amherst and professional experience administering leagues, he recognized an opportunity to develop an adult recreational sports company. In January 2008, he launched Casco Bay Sports with four basketball teams and six dodgeball teams. The company now offers 13 sports and serves over 12,000 participants annually.
Hackleman credits his two full-time employees, Christian Rodriguez and Dan Finnie, with much of the company’s success. They organize the schedules, set the leagues, communicate with the team captains, assign the refs and umpires, and generally make sure everything runs well. He also praises the refs and umpires, who work on a contract basis, noting that they are the people who actually create the environment that keeps participants coming back.
One might wonder if the folks at Parks & Rec were resentful of a private company moving into their market, but Hackleman said that’s not the case. In fact, as Casco Bay Sports grew, the city asked them to take over some of its programs.
“We have a great relationship with the City of Portland Parks and Rec Department,” said Hackleman. “We’ve been working with them for many years. We rent a lot of space from them. They were running the Portland Softball League in-house for many years… [but] they didn’t have the bandwidth to continue. They were like, ‘Hey, would you want to just run it and we’ll rent you the space?’ We inherited a few nights of co-ed, and there was a longstanding men’s league that was in town, but has since moved to Westbrook.”
Except for a women’s soccer league, all of Casco Bay Sports’ leagues are mixed gender. “We dabbled in men’s-specific leagues, but they generally become too competitive, and then no one will referee or manage them,” Hackleman said. “It’s not fun. … That’s not to say that women aren’t as competitive as men, but in a sports environment, when you mix sexes, it just takes the edge off. That’s what we want to do. We want to encourage that social, fun, competitive environment.”
Just as there needs to be competition, so there must also be a physical-exercise component. Golf? Yes, including the indoor, simulated kind at X-Golf, on York Street. Innertube water polo? Certainly, at the Cape Elizabeth Community Pool. Billiards? Darts? Not a chance.
“I’m constantly trying to find new things for people to do,” Hackleman said. “But we’re more about moving around a little bit. I know in cornhole you don’t move around too much, but that’s the most sedentary sport we’ll offer.”
Reflecting that need for some level of competition, each two-month league season ends with a championship. “There’s always a winner,” Hackleman told me. “Believe me, we sometimes grapple with, Does there need to be a winner? Yes, there needs to be a winner.”
If just the word competition makes you break into a cold sweat, shuddering with painful memories of seventh-grade phys ed (oh wait, that’s me), know that Casco Bay offers sports at multiple levels. “Our leagues are large enough that we now offer two, three, even four divisions of play,” Hackleman explained. “So, for flag football now, we have Very Competitive, Competitive, Casual, and Corporate. And even for kickball now, we have a Corporate division. … It’s not just for the seasoned athlete or the high school hero. We actually would prefer to have more semi-competitive and casual participants, because you’re there for exercise. You’re there to move your body and to meet people. The athletes will always come, but there’s a place for everybody.”
New leagues start weekly. Summer sports include soccer, pickleball, basketball, bowling, volleyball, kickball, softball and, naturally, cornhole. Read all about it at cascobaysports.com or phone (207) 613-9960.
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