Summertime is high season for our towns and there’s no shortage of things to do. Winter, however, is a different story.
As two parents with children all between the ages of five and nine, Patrick Pryor and Kasie Munson, both of Old Lyme, are keenly aware of the lack of activities available to local residents in the winter. And they have come up with a plan to remedy that.
They propose to build a large indoor recreational facility that would include an artificially-turfed playing field for lacrosse and soccer; a National Hockey League regulation-size ice rink (one initially, two later) that would be open to hockey leagues and for public skating; indoor tennis, handball, racquetball, squash, and paddleball courts; a swimming pool; a fitness center; a multipurpose room for parties and conferences; pro shops; a games arcade; and food service.
The site they have in mind for this proposed 56,000 square foot building is on a nine-acre parcel of land in a light industrial district at the end of Machnik Drive in Old Lyme close to the exit for I-95. To get the ball rolling, however, Old Lyme's Zoning Commission must first approve Pryor and Munson’s application for a special use permit to allow a recreational facility to operate in a light industrial zone.
At its July 9 meeting, the Commission set the date for a public hearing on the proposed zoning change for September 10. But this is just the first step in what is likely to be a long process.
The project is in its infancy, too young yet even for site drawings, but if it comes to fruition in the way in which Pryor and Munson envision, it could be a very big deal indeed.
In a pitch letter to the town outlining the proposal in May, Pryor anticipated the athletic complex would offer fulltime employment to 12 to 18 people, part-time employment to 40 to 50 people, and would keep about 200 coaches, referees and instructors busy on a contract basis.
The project would be privately-funded but Pryor anticipates annual revenues of about $1.5 million once the facility is up and running. Based on that, Pryor writes, the facility would be paying anywhere from $80,000 to $150,000 in property taxes annually, which would make it one of the largest taxpayers in Old Lyme.
How can Pryor be so confident in his predictions? Based on analysis of the local market, he believes there’s both the need and demand for an indoor sports complex. Town Woods fields are used to maximum or above capacity, he writes, which means many teams have to play out of town and evening and night sports aren’t possible.
The fact that there was a proposal for a similar facility in Westbrook, which fell through when the economy tanked, suggests that an indoor sports complex in Old Lyme would also draw teams from neighboring towns and could serve many leagues that are currently forced into winter hibernation.
“This facility is a big game-changer for the town of Old Lyme,” writes Pryor. “We expect that every school-age resident will attend some function in the facility, many on a regular basis, as well as [people from] surrounding towns.
"Our number 1 goal (yes, pun intended!) is to serve the Old Lyme community," Pryor writes, "and as such all Old Lyme-based teams would have first priority in scheduling.”