STAMFORD, Conn. It has yet to officially open its doors to the public, but the expectations are astronomical for the new Chelsea Piers Connecticut sports complex in Stamford.
The 400,000-square-foot facility was hailed Thursday by Gov. Dan Malloy, Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia and its creators, David Tewksbury, Roland Betts and Tom Bernstein, as a major step in the continued revitalization of Stamford as the grand opening was held Thursday.
"We first visited the former Clairol plant in 2009. Over the years, we looked at many cities in the United States, but we could never put together all the critical ingredients," Tewksbury said. "Finding a 30-acre facility in the heart of Fairfield County was like hitting a bulls-eye. We definitely felt we had an 'if you build it they will come' project. And that's still our hope and belief."
Coaches with local ties were hired to head every sports program in the facility. Dave Flower, Westhill High School girls head soccer coach and new director of soccer at Chelsea Piers CT, said seeing the facility for the first time was "like Christmas."
"It has exceeded all expectations," he said. "I think sports are going to explode even more than they already have in this area. I think, for Fairfield County, it's perfect hub for where we could all start from."
The massive complex features a hockey rink, a figure skating rink, an Olympic-size swimming pool, a 15,000-square-foot gymnastics training center, seven tennis courts, 12 squash courts, batting cages, hardwood courts for basketball and volleyball, and a 100-yard indoor turf for football, lacrosse, soccer, field hockey, softball, baseball and a one-fifth-mile track.
In addition, the facility includes a child care and preschool center with a kids "splash zone" swim area. It also features an organic food café, a sit-down restaurant, a pro shop, a cycling training studio, a new branch of BlueStreak Sports Training and an extension of Stamford Hospital focusing on sports medicine and physical therapy.
One of the first people to take figure skating lessons at the original Chelsea Piers facility in New York City when it opened in 1996 was future Olympic gold medalist Sarah Hughes. She attended the opening of the new Connecticut facility Thursday.
The opening of Chelsea Piers comes just 24 months after construction began on the site of the former Clairol plant on Blachley Road in Stamford. The facility will officially open its doors to the public July 9.
"We feel we have built the finest sports facility in North America," Tewksbury said.
Video shot and edited by Eric Gendron.
Follow Eric Gendron on Twitter for the Daily Voice's latest coverage of Fairfield County sports.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.