From wreck to rec, old factory reborn as Sportsplex
A Fairfield developer has nearly completed his multi-year transformation of a former factory on lower Mill Plain Road into a multi-faceted indoor recreation complex.
Harold Fischel's Sportsplex@Fairfield, located on 6 acres of land formerly home to Fairprene, Inc., will be almost fully leased to tenants if his three latest proposed tenants -- a boxing/jujitsu gym, an art instruction studio and a tutoring center -- win approval next week from the Town Plan and Zoning Commission. The TPZ will hold a public hearing on the proposed tenants at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in McKinley School.
"If these proposed things go through, there is probably 5,000 square feet left out of 120,000 square feet," said Deanna Spartachino, project manager at Sportsplex@Fairfield.
Fischel initially wanted to renovate the old factory buildings into offices and residences, but that required the TPZ to change the zoning classification of the land from industrial to commercial, which the panel refused to do in June 2007.
Fischel said Wednesday that he looked through the town zoning regulations to see what was permitted in industrial zones, and the only use that made sense was indoor recreation. "We didn't really start leasing it until 2009," Fischel said. "The first tenant was a gym in the cheerleading venue, and we thought there was an opportunity to develop a larger sports complex."
In addition to Gymnastics and Cheerleading Academy of Connecticut, which occupies the most space at 27,727 square feet, the property also now houses two ice-skating rinks; a rock climbing gym, which is undergoing an expansion; a field house; laser tag, physical fitness centers; a yoga studio; fencing academy; two gourmet and health-related restaurants; a martial-arts studio; a sportswear retailer; an indoor playground, and a business that specializes in online promotion of events and fundraising.
"I do think it is a very good mix," Spartachino said. "I think being part of this bigger picture, being part of a sportsplex family, has really been helpful to these businesses."
Tenants in Sportsplex@Fairfield cater to a range of ages, which enables parents to bring young and older children to various outlets, and the related businesses can sponsor week-long camps in the summer, Spartachino said. "It is precisely the mix that has made this camp so appealing. The camp is really a big pull for a lot of these businesses," she said.
Spartachino said a lot of tenants that offer after-school activities still draw customers in the summer to the camps, which run Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. "It keeps people in all summer long," she said.
Shawn Russell, owner of Cinch, one of the few non-sports tenants in the complex, said business has been very good since he opened his gourmet restaurant last September. "I'm very happy. We're above plan so things have been going well," he said.
Russell said Cinch provides prepared gourmet meals that people pick up, though a few people eat lunch in the restaurant. He said from 70 to 90 meals are prepared every day and that everyone who does the cooking is a Fairfield mother.
Matt Loguercio of Easton said his son Alex, 7, developed hockey skills at the Fairfield Ice Academy to such a degree that he may play in an older kids' league. "He's progressed so much. As a little guy, he shoots the puck so hard and shoots it so high," he said.
The three latest proposed tenants at Sportsplex@Fairfield are: East Coast Boxing LLC, a boxing and jujitsu gym that would occupy 4,650 square feet between a tae kwon do tenant and yoga studio; E.nobi (Korean for "eye level"), which would offer tutoring in math, reading and writing for children ages 3 to 16 and which would occupy 660 square feet in a three-story building at the front of the property, and the Young Artists Studio, a business now on Fairfield Woods Road owned by Christine Orlando and Priscilla Perotti Igram that would occupy 1,219 square feet next to E.nobi.
For more information about tenants and summer camps at Sportsplex@Fairfield, check the website, Sportsplex@Fairfield.com.