A Portland synagogue could become the new home of a community squash court complex.

Portland Community Squash, a nonprofit organization that teaches the indoor racket sport, mentors local students and runs leagues, is hoping to purchase the Congregation Shaarey Tphiloh synagogue on Noyes Street and install four squash courts. The existing classrooms in the 13,000-square-foot building, which is listed for sale by The Dunham Group at an asking price of $1.2 million, would be used for the squash organization’s educational programs.

Barrett Takesian, president of Portland Community Squash, said the programming would help unite the city’s neighborhoods, while creating educational opportunities for Maine students.

Adults could use the courts by becoming a member or paying a drop-in fee, he said.

The organization also would continue to use courts at the Portland YMCA, where it now teaches 60 students. Takesian said the plan is to eventually have 200 students in the program.

Congregation Shaarey Tphiloh is exploring the possibility of leasing worship space from Temple Beth-El on Deering Avenue if the deal goes through, said Natan Kahn, the synagogue’s president.


Kahn said declining membership forced the congregation’s hand. The synagogue, one of Portland’s oldest continually operating orthodox synagogues, now has only 60 member families, compared with hundreds of families that belonged during the 1950s and 1960s, Kahn said.

“It’s just unsustainable for us to stay in such a large building,” he said. “For a Saturday service, we’re lucky to get 20 to 25 people.”

Squash, once seen as a sport for the well-to-do, has gained more widespread popularity in recent years. According to U.S. Squash, participation numbers doubled nationally from 2007 to 2012, reaching 1.3 million players.

The sport is played by two or four people – singles or doubles – in an enclosed court. Players use rackets to hit the squash balls against the front wall, or bounce them off the side or back walls.

In Portland, there were about 35 active players in 2010 when Greg Born became interested in the sport. Now there are around 250, said Born, who started the Maine Squash website to make it easier for people to find opponents and reserve courts.

Born is also one of the founders of Portland Community Squash.


If the facility gets built, he said, it will have the state’s only regulation-sized courts open to the public.

There are four smaller courts at the Portland YMCA and two at the Boothbay branch. The University of Southern Maine has one court that can be rented by the public for a fee. Bates, Colby and Bowdoin colleges have courts for their varsity teams that are available for limited public use.

Portland Community Squash originally hoped to have nine courts and classrooms built as part of the expansion of Bayside Bowl, but they were scrapped from the plans for cost reasons.

Takesian said the organization is still working on the contract with the synagogue and trying to gather input from the neighborhood.

He has distributed materials about the organization and the project to neighbors and plans to hold a meeting for them.

Congregation Shaarey Tphiloh, also known as the Noyes Street Shul, was founded in 1904 on Newbury Street in Portland and moved to Noyes Street in 1954, according to its website. The property is valued at over $1 million, according to city assessing records.

Portland Community Squash has launched a $1.5 million fundraising campaign for the purchase and renovation of the building and “is exceeding target pace,” Takesian said without giving a dollar figure for the money raised so far.


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