Sunday, August 21, 2016

Complex Questions

From Mick Melvin & Dave Brigham:

The powers that be at New England SportsPlex built it, and for several years, they came: to play softball and volleyball, throw horseshoes, frolic in the screened-in playground, or just hang out and watch. The year was 1994, and life for softball players in and around Vernon, Connecticut, was good. I recall driving past the facility on my way to and from my parents' house a little further south and west in the Nutmeg State, and thinking, "What a cool place!"

The owner talked at the time of the opening about adding a sports bar (I don't believe that ever came about), and said he'd spent a quarter of a million dollars on a lighting system for the complex. The multiple fields had computerized watering and drainage systems to keep the place looking top notch.

But like in "Field of Dreams," players at the SportsPlex headed into the tall weeds, never to return. I'm not sure how long the place has been closed, but an August 2011 article in the Vernon Patch said it closed "several years" prior.

In the Patch article, the reporter noted that the land had recently been cleared, although representatives of the land's owner were unavailable for comment. The article indicated that Home Depot and other big-box retailers had expressed interest in the site.

Shortly after that Patch article ran online, Mick Melvin visited the site and took these photos:

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(Photo by Mick Melvin, taken September 2011)

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(Photo by Mick Melvin, taken September 2011)

I've been meaning to take pictures of this site for years, and succeeded once in taking some not-so-great shots. I seized a new opportunity recently by sneaking through a gap in a fence.

(Photo by Dave Brigham, taken April 2016)

(Photo by Dave Brigham, taken April 2016)

(Photo by Dave Brigham, taken April 2016)

As you can see, the site is overgrown once again. Why did the SportsPlex fail when sites like it around the country have done well? Why has it taken so long for a new buyer or tenant to develop this site? Is it too expensive to dig up the water and drainage system? Why isn't a site right off Interstate 84, practically within site of downtown Hartford, attractive to retail/residential/hotel/restaurant developers?

Stay tuned.

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