STAMFORD -- Chelsea Piers, the waterfront sports and entertainment operator in New York City, celebrated its expansion into Connecticut Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its new location on the city's East Side.
Known as Chelsea Piers Connecticut, the roughly 400,000-square-foot facility was touted by company officials as being the "finest sports facility" in North America. Its doors will officially open July 9 with the launch of its youth summer camp program.
"Stamford," Pavia added, "is the place to be."
The opening of Chelsea Piers has been highly anticipated since the announcement in October 2010 that the company would become the anchor tenant at the 33-acre site on Blachley Road that once housed the headquarters for the hair-care giant Clairol.
Chelsea Piers transformed a former warehouse into a state-of-the-art complex it hopes will make Stamford a sports hub, drawing on affluent sports-rabid families from across Fairfield and Westchester counties.
The $50 million project has already provided the city with an economic boost. Pavia credited the company with creating 900 construction jobs, between 400 to 600 related jobs in other areas, and 250 permanent jobs in Stamford.
Malloy, who presided as Stamford's mayor during Clairol's last days, described the arrival of Chelsea Piers as part of the city's continuing transition from a small manufacturing town to one that attracts a variety of businesses. "This marks the completion, or at least another stage, of that transformation," he said.
The all-in-one venue contains two levels along with a mezzanine, and boasts an Olympic-sized pool, two NHL-sized ice rinks, and athletic spaces for an array of other sports, including gymnastics, tennis, squash, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, football and basketball.
Memberships for families start at $120 a month.
Scores of people attended Thursday's ceremony, which took place atop an 100-yard turf field surrounded by a track. Attendees included city officials as well as community stakeholders and residents.
Among the special guests was 2002 Olympic figure skating gold medalist Sarah Hughes, who as an 8-year-old performed as an exhibition skater at the 1994 groundbreaking of the original Chelsea Piers in Manhattan.
Also in attendance was Tennis Hall of Famer Gigi Fernandez, who is director of tennis at Chelsea Piers Connecticut.
Roland Betts, the founder of Chelsea Piers, told an anecdote to illustrate the kind of far-reaching potential that lies within the company's main users.
"We built this place for kids," he said.
To showcase the gleaming facilities, coaches at Chelsea Piers invited youth athletes from the area to practice in them as spectators watched through transparent viewing windows.
Winston said that initially, the sight of an empty manufacturing facility created "angst" within the community. Residents, he said, have been pleased with the arrival of Chelsea Piers as well as NBC Sports, which is set to move its headquarters into an adjacent building on the campus next year.
For Winston, a professional gardener and arborist who sits on the city's parks and recreation commission, the project has other virtues.
"It's kind of the greatest form of green development to use an existing building," he said.
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