Everywhere, through more than almost 400,000 square feet, the smell of fresh paint and concrete dust mix with the noises of saws and hammers and lifts to create an echoing maze of construction at the far end of Stamford's Blachley Road off Route 1.
The project has been underway for some time now, but in its current state, the personality of the building is really beginning to take shape. The visionary behind the work, Connecticut's own James G. Rogers, owner of Norwalk's James G. Rogers Architects, knows the building inside and out.
He walked through the vast, open hallways filled with glass walls and windows into the surrounding rooms and facilities and pointed out various points of interest. Here, a unique support beam choice. There, a nifty new variety of air duct.
"I think people are going to flock to it," he said. "I'm tremendously excited. I don't romanticize it, no. I;m just looking forward to walkign in here and seeing people in every area of the venue, doing all the stuff the building will be capable of accomodating."
And boy, is there a lot of stuff it will be able to accomodate. 12 squash courts (11 single, 1 double), seven tennis courts, twp ice hockey rinks, one Olympic-sized, indoor swimming pool, a full-sized, indoor football field and track, batting cages—the list goes on and on.
Rogers, who grew up in New Canaan and currently maintains his office in South Norwalk, is a man who knows the state of Connecticut inside and out and has the ability to combine his love of his hometown, his knowledge of its needs and his more than 30 years of experience to get the job done well.
The Chelsea Piers New York, a one million-square-foot facility served as inspiration for the Connecticut project. It's a center that houses everything from sports activities to retail to an ice rink to a sound stage.
"There has always been interest to do something similar somewhere else," he said. "It's not easy to replicate the high concentration of people interested in sports. We knew we had all those basic ingredients here in Fairfield County going into this."
Some of the challenges Rogers faced included doubling the amount of 200,000-square-feet of space the project had leased from a 700,000-square-foot plot of land—a new extension of Stamford hospital will be going right next door—but also finding a way to have all the uninterupted space needed for things like a swimming pool or an ice rink in an existing structure that formerly had support beams running there, floor to ceiling.
"It was a big challenge, structurally," said Rogers. "The rest of [the project's parts] we were able to weave in through the existing building. I think that's one of the things that makes it so gratifying, for me. All the layers."
One of those layers is the people themselves. Rogers biggest joy is in the sheer number of people that will be able to utilize something he has created all in the name of fun.
"Knowing that a building that was sitting here unused is going to be used by so many people for such a positive purpose, it's a major satisfaction," he said. "Other projects don't always have such a broad, publicly-wide impact."
Chelsea Piers Connecticut is set to finish construction in early June. On July 9th, camp begins.
"It will happen," Rogers said. "You can print that!"