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    Sunday, April 14, 2024

    Silver Oak a tribute to Megan Palmer

    Mystic Indoor Sports Thursday, April 28, 2016. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Mystic — Matt McCormack started out building an indoor sports facility and clubhouse but has wound up with a sort of monument to the creativity and spirit of his life partner, Megan Palmer, who died just weeks before the opening of the recently completed Silver Oak Mystic.

    "She had a vision," McCormack said last week of Palmer as he gave a tour of the new facility that includes a fieldstone fireplace reminiscent of the Napa Valley wineries he and Megan liked to visit in their free time.

    Silver Oak Mystic, the clubhouse side of McCormack's business that includes a kitchen and bar, is in addition to a long-established tennis facility and newly built Astroturf sports field at what is now known as Mystic Indoor Sports off Welles Road. The clubhouse was erected between the two sports facilities as a place where members could relax as well as a potential site for weddings, holiday parties and other events.

    Outside, a patio beckons, and close by a green spot will soon be created with picnic tables and an area for bocce, horseshoes, ring toss and other games.

    Inside the 4,000-square-foot clubhouse, remnants of the old 1790 farmhouse that had served as the tennis club's meeting area for many years can be seen in the paneling, individually crafted tables, fireplace and even in the bar.

    "Megan and I made every one of these decisions," McCormack said. "We intended to do everything unique."

    But Palmer, who was to be the facility's general manager, died Feb. 12 after a fall at home. McCormack, still heartbroken by his loss, said nearly 1,000 people attended a celebration of life ceremony at the indoor field to express their condolences.

    "She was able to see it through to 90 percent to 95 percent complete," McCormack said. "You can feel her here."

    McCormack, founder of the New London data-management firm QDiscovery, said he brought business strategy expertise and acted as general contractor for the project, but it was Palmer who provided the design acumen. Both of them traveled to other clubs as they looked into adding distinguishing touches to what they hoped would be one of the best facilities in Connecticut.

    The kitchen is first class, with stainless steel everywhere. It was Megan's intention to serve nothing but healthy food, McCormack said, with a window on one side serving the indoor-sports crowd and the other side near the club's entrance catering to tennis players.

    The locker room facilities include wooden lockers reminiscent of an earlier time, and people who rent a space will have their name engraved on the metal numbers in place, McCormack said. The tennis facility has recently been upgraded with new lights, heating system and backdrops. 

    On the other side, the 22,000-square-foot fieldhouse is flexible enough to allow three games at one time, offering lacrosse, soccer and other sports teams to practice during inclement weather, while elsewhere in the space batting cages and a basketball hoop beckon. To the side, McCormack has collected vintage seats from Fenway Park, Soldier Field and other ballparks around the country to add a special touch.

    "Every one is a different stadium," he said.

    A different aspect of the indoor field is that it is free of crumb rubber, using sand as a ballast instead. A debate is swirling about the safety of crumb rubber typically used in new sports facilities, McCormack said, and Palmer insisted that a more natural alternative be used.

    "Megan was passionate about it," McCormack said.

    Palmer and McCormack used to save ideas for the project in folders, always seeming to agree on the little touches that added a Napa Valley spirit to the whole project. Now, a California grape vine dominates the two-sided gas fireplace in honor of Palmer's spirit.

    The couple were in Napa Valley when McCormack came up with the overall concept for a different kind of high-end sports complex.

    "Would that work, honey?" he remembers asking Palmer. "What if we built something that's never been done before?"

    l.howard@theday.com

    Mystic Indoor Sports owner Matt McCormach stands on the new indoor turf field Thursday, April 28, 2016. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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