Board OK's sports complex

Also approves motocross arena

By Rachel Lebeaux
Globe Correspondent / November 2, 2008
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Year-round athletics in Bellingham will get a boost thanks to two new facilities slated to move forward this year.

The town's Planning Board has given preliminary approval to proposals for both an indoor/outdoor athletic complex and an indoor motocross arena on Maple Street. The board will formalize the decisions at its next meeting Nov. 13.

LIG Development Co. LLC of Westwood wants to build an athletic complex consisting of six outdoor soccer fields, two indoor soccer fields, two indoor basketball courts, and a 654-space parking lot. The facility will also have waiting lounges with WiFi access and flat-panel televisions, and a café serving wraps, salads, and other foods.

The complex will be located on 63.3 acres of a 144-acre property that LIG purchased last year from computer giant EMC for $11.45 million. The property is on Maple Street near High Street, south of I-495.

"We're pretty excited," said Ted Doyle, chief operating officer for LIG's BCL Premier Sports LLC division, who projects that construction will start by the end of the year, with a late-summer 2009 opening in mind.

Meanwhile, R. J. Cobb Land Clearing Inc. of Bellingham is developing a 68,400-square-foot motocross facility on a Maple Street property north of I-495. It will include a ground-level arena, space for bike storage, men's and women's locker rooms, and a lobby area. The first floor will include a retail store, a snack bar, a lounge, and a mezzanine level for viewing the bikers, town planner Stacey Wetstein said.

R. J. Cobb Land Clearing Inc. could not be reached for comment.

Both developers have pledged funds to help offset traffic control and other costs associated with their projects. LIG is committing $80,000 for work on the Maple Street corridor, as well as another $10,000 per year for 12 years for discretionary spending on projects the town needs to have done along that corridor. LIG is also pledging $30,000 for police equipment, such as electronic message and speed-limit boards, and donating 11.7 acres of open space

R. J. Cobb Land Clearing Inc. is providing $15,000 toward the Maple Street corridor and will pay for a drainage easement and the installation of pipes that go with the easement, estimated at $22,000, Wetstein said.

Patricia Buckley, chairman of the Planning Board, called the motocross arena, which would operate as a privately owned club with memberships, "interesting and unique to this area."

"My understanding is that there are no other ones like this around here," Buckley said, noting that there had been one in Connecticut, but that it closed.

The motocross building will be open 24 hours a day, "but with the caveat that, between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., there be no loading or unloading of equipment," Wetstein said. "The intent was to minimize noise during sleeping hours."

Buckley said that her board was assured that the metal motocross structure will contain the noise of motorcycles. Carbon monoxide levels within the building will be monitored, and the town's Fire Department has signed off on precautions to ensure that there will be no gasoline spills into the ground, she said.

Steven Kohler, who lives on nearby Stonehedge Road, said that he has heard mixed opinions on the motocross arena.

"It's an interesting proposal," Kohler said, noting that he owns a motorcycle. "It might be challenging for them at times . . . but I hope their concept works."

Kohler added that he supports the sports complex proposal. "In a utopian world, they would remain fields, but the owner has the right to do with it as he chooses," Kohler said. "This is the best option we've seen in a long time."

Although there might be some traffic impact, Kohler thinks it will be manageable.

"The owners worked very hard with the town to forecast potential problems there and plan accordingly," he said.

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