Indoor athletic center proposed in Old Lyme

Old Lyme - Two residents proposing a 53,000-square-foot indoor athletic facility here say the space is needed space for children to play sports.

Patrick Pryor and Kasie Munson are aiming to construct the sports center at 10 Machnik Drive to house a professional-sized ice skating rink, an athletic turf field, a ballet room, fitness facility, birthday party rooms, and sports equipment rental shops.

But before they can apply for a permit to build the center, they would first need to change the town's zoning language. The chosen area for the site stands in a district designated as a light industrial zone and the town's regulations do not allow such a structure there.

Some in town praise the two residents' plan, but for others, the facility is unwelcome at the chosen site.

The site plans have not been developed, but Pryor said he and Munson want to build the center for various reasons. There are almost no indoor fields nearby of the size he plans and that field space in town is reaching capacity, he said. Pryor, who has played hockey for nearly 40 years and whose two children play the sport, said the closest skating rink to the town is in Norwich.

While the town's beaches provide many activities in the summer, the town lacks a sufficient number of winter activities, he said.

Munson said the center would be a place for children, including those of future generations, to play and would attract other families to the town.

"It will enrich the life of the town's community," she said.

Residents spoke on whether or not they supported the facility at that site at a Zoning Commission hearing last week to consider the zone change.

Some residents strongly oppose the center being located at the site Pryor and Munson have chosen. They said the center could create traffic, safety, environment and noise problems.

Resident Liz Lunde, who lives near the planned site, is worried about safety issues. She said at the hearing that she was concerned that the center could potentially hinder access routes for emergency vehicles.

Eileen Mueller was concerned about the proposed center's hours of operation. She said she researched other ice rinks, and they tend to keep late hours. She said she spoke to other businesses in the area near the proposed center and they keep hours no later than 8 p.m.

Supporters praised the possibility of a sports facility in town and potential for new jobs.

Kourtney Collette cited studies that sports can improve children's physical fitness and academic ability. She also said residents don't want to travel far to sports facilities, especially because of gas prices.

The commission ended the public hearing last week, but will revisit the issue at its Nov. 14 meeting.

k.drelich@theday.com

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