$11M sports bubble opens in Windsor to roaring demand, spurring adjacent development interest
By Michael Puffer
A four-year, $11 million effort to build the Day Hill Dome indoor sports bubble in Windsor came right down to the wire, achieving its certificate of occupancy at 2 p.m. Friday.
Two hours later, soccer players with the Hartford Athletic arrived, along with the first 75 children scheduled for a round of youth soccer clinics.
Hours later, the sports bubble hosted 2Way Lacrosse, which ran games over five hours for groups ranging from 8 years of age to an over-30 league.
On Saturday, the dome hosted a youth soccer league that brought in 3,000 people over 12 hours.
Vincent DiCarlo, who dropped his small marketing business four years ago to pour his energy into building the bubble, said he worked with subcontractors for 21 hours a day during the week leading up to the opening. He said the effort paid off, as he heard a constant stream of praise for the facility from parents and players throughout the weekend.
“The feedback has been that this is world-class,” DiCarlo said. “The feedback we are getting is that it’s the best facility they’ve ever been in.”
The 95,000-square-foot dome is 80 feet tall at its peak. It has 116 LED lights pointed up at the ceiling, to offer indirect light without glare that might interfere with play. At 70 yards by 115 yards, the artificial turf field is regulation size for soccer play and will host Hartford Athletic practices and youth clinics.
The bubble is large enough to host two indoor softball fields simultaneously, DiCarlo noted. It can also host lacrosse and field hockey. DiCarlo said he’s contemplating ways to set up indoor courts for summer basketball.
The facility also has one outdoor grass soccer field and two artificial turf fields, which will be ready for play this spring.
The Day Hill Dome was built on a roughly 150-acre development site assembled by Litchfield-based developer and investor Mark Greenberg, who has become a partner and invested millions of dollars into the dome to ensure its completion.
For Greenberg, the effort is fueled by his personal passion for youth sports, as his children are athletes. It’s also part of a strategic vision for the entire property, blending sports as a draw to spur other development.
Greenberg’s property already hosts the 11 private softball fields run by FastPitch Nation, with a 12th under construction. Day Hill Dome will also host overnight softball league tournaments organized by FastPitch.
The interest generated by the sports businesses is helping Greenberg fill a 106,568-square-foot commercial building near the property’s entrance, at 1001 Day Hill Road.
Dudleytown Brewing Co., an expansive brewpub, opened in the building earlier this year. FastPitch Nation is planning an indoor pitching facility inside the commercial building, Greenberg said.
Fit-out for a new physical therapy health spa will begin next week. A golf simulation company is also considering a space. Greenberg said he expects the building to be fully occupied within a year.
“It was a hard road,” Greenberg said of the sports bubble development. “It was four years, but the result was absolutely incredible, and I was really proud of it. This area will be a center for youth sports for years to come.”
DiCarlo said the opening wouldn’t have been possible without the extrodinary effort and extra push from contractors working on the dome. Arizon Building Systems, of St. Louis, put up the dome. RAD Sports, of Rockland, Massachusetts, installed the turf. Borghesi Building & Engineering, of Torrington, served as general contractor. Network Framing and Network Interiors of Plainville built out the spectator mezzanine, offices and other off-field amenities. Talcott View Development, of Granby, performed the sitework.
Hearing the buzz
Part of the plan has always been to develop an ecosystem of complementary businesses.
DiCarlo’s dome has a balcony seating area for parents, but doesn’t have much in the way of concessions — only protein bars and Gatorade. He said he wants visitors to frequent the nearby Blimpie sub shop, Pho Van Vietnamese restaurant and the new Mojo’s breakfast and lunch diner.
DiCarlo built a concrete walkway up to the nearby commercial building, anticipating parents wanting to visit the restaurants and brew pub.
“For this development, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” DiCarlo said. “This facility is great. By itself, it would be incredible. The brewery by itself would be incredible. Put them next to each other and it just elevates the whole experience.”
Mojo’s owner Stephen Farrelly, 46, said he’s already noticed an impact, with customers visiting his small diner on Saturday, saying they’d been directed there from the sports dome.
Farrelly, who has been a chef for more than 20 years and lived in Windsor his whole life, on Nov. 11 opened his five-table diner, which makes its entire menu from scratch. He said he was drawn to the site by all the development activity.
“I saw what was coming,” Farrelly said. “I saw all the construction going on. I heard the buzz. I came in to talk to Mark Greenberg and we put something together.”
More to come
Other projects are on tap for the 150-acre Windsor property.
Greenberg plans to launch construction of a $9 million, 90-room Microtel hotel before the close of the year, using Sunstone Construction Services, of Glastonbury, to oversee the project. Greenberg said the hotel is scheduled to open in April 2025.
Separately, Groton businessman Jimmy Patel has bought 3.5 acres of Greenberg’s property to build a $14 million, 110-room Home 2 Suites hotel. Greenberg said that project is expected to launch construction in April and last about 18 months.
Greenberg is also planning to build 150 apartments at 1095 Day Hill Road, within sight of his sports-oriented development zone.
A partnership of sports entertainment, media and technology executives are also partnered with Greenberg in an effort to raise funding for a 100,000-square-foot, 3,000-seat velodrome for indoor team-track cycling on Greenberg’s Windsor site.
Early plans call for an attached 40,000-square-foot field house.
Investors are also considering adding a Starbucks in a new building on the access road to 1001 Day Hill Road, Greenberg said.
Meantime, Greenberg said he is under contract to sell a 36-acre corner of the property to Massachusetts real estate development firm Condyne Capital Partners, which is seeking to build two logistics buildings with a combined 425,000 square feet of space.