New sports facilities could come to Westport
WESTPORT — Two new athletic facilities could come to town for children and adults across various sports.
The Planning and Zoning Commission is considering two proposals: a new 8,000-square foot commercial indoor recreational facility behind the CL&P substation and a larger field house on town-owned property.
“I do love the sports theme,” Commission member Amie Tesler said at the recent meeting. “I like what we’re doing here. I love that we’re thinking of our children, what they need, comfort for them and the parents — it’s awesome.”
The commercial facility is only in the pre-application stage and is proposed for 345 Main Street.
The larger field house at 170 Riverside Avenue had a public meeting, facilitated through the first selectwoman’s office on behalf of the Westport Police Athletic League. The proposal is to remove the Doubleday Fieldhouse at PJ Romano Field and replace it with a new, larger facility located on town-owned property.
“We’re looking for a favorable report for the proposed improvements to the field house so we may continue providing athletic programs to the children in Westport,”said Anna Rycenga, senior administrative project manager with LandTech.
The commission unanimously voted for a positive report for the field house project.
Rycenga said the town owns the property, which sits on about 23.15 acres including Kings Highway and Saugatuck elementary schools. The town entered a 20-year lease with PAL for it, ending June 2042.
The existing field house is one story and built in 1936 though it hasn’t been used for about eight years. PAL used it for film sessions, meetings, a concession stand, as well as to store sports equipment, she said.
Michael Frawley, Westport’s facilities’ superintendent, prepared an inspection report in April 2022, determining the field house needs major renovations and has major deficiencies, Rycenga said.
The proposed clubhouse will be two stories and approximately 3,404 square feet. It will have space for storage, a concession stand that does not serve hot food, meting rooms, cubicle offices and an observation area. It will also be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
PAL is paying for the improvements, she said.
The other facility at 345 Main Street will be used to address the lack of an indoor sports facility in Westport, according to the meeting.
Scott Verona, a girls lacrosse coach in town, said the space could serve various sports, including lacrosse, football, soccer and baseball, particularly from fall to spring. He said there is a need from spring to fall, too, as the outdoor fields get used often, which is too much for Parks and Recreation to keep up with.
Currently, players go to surrounding towns’ facilities to practice indoors, such as Trumbull or Norwalk, Verona said.
“I’d like to really cater first to Westport and Westport only, then once their schedules are filled up, then open it to out of town,” he said.
The existing 2,000-square-foot storage facility behind the substation would be demolished, and a new structure for the indoor field would be built in the same area, said LandTech Principal Andy Soumeledis.
He said it would be about one-tenth of a typical turn field’s 80,000 square feet, so games could not be held there.
Commissioners were generally in favor of the facility, but some said it could be logistically challenging, as there will be a lack of space for parking.
“I love the idea because there is truly a disparity in this town,” Planing and Zoning Commission Chair Danielle Dobin said, particularly about access to lit fields in comparison of girls teams and boys teams.
Dobin suggested determining how small of a space can be used to add parking to the area.
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