Bobby Valentine, the former Major League Baseball player and manager, is becoming more visible in the county because of business ventures and his association with Sacred Heart University (SHU). The $21.8 million Bobby Valentine Athletic Center, a state-of-the-art fitness facility at SHU, is scheduled to open in August 2019. Valentine is the university’s executive director of athletics.
Having joined SHU on what he calls “a whim” — the Fairfield school’s president John Petillo approached him about taking over for retiring executive director C. Donald Cook in 2013 — the man popularly known as Bobby V. said it was “a match made in heaven, and it’s been a wonderful opportunity for me.”
Similarly, he said that when the school was looking to address the fact that it was outgrowing its William H. Pitt Center, “I was lucky enough to get my friends and some of the SHU alumni that I know, as well as other people who are close to the university, to see that this would be a worthwhile venture.”
Designed by the Glastonbury architectural firm The S/L/A/M Collaborative and being built by Consigli Construction Co., the 57,400-square foot, three-story center will be “one of the country’s best rec centers,” Valentine said. The new center will include an indoor track; a 5,000-square-foot bowling center with LED widescreen monitors; an 18-bike spin center; a 45-foot climbing wall; and a two-story, 7,000-square-foot fitness center for cardiovascular workouts, free and cable weights, circuit training and CrossFit opportunities. A juice bar on the third floor will feature protein smoothies.
Being built behind the north end zone of Campus Field, the Valentine Athletic Center will allow SHU to reconfigure the current exercise and weight-training areas in the Pitt Center to better serve varsity sports and SHU’s 855 student-athletes. Currently, the 21-year-old Pitt Center doubles as training space for student-athletes and recreational facilities for the entire student population.
Valentine noted that SHU’s 32 NCAA Division I teams will have sole use of the Pitt Center once the new facility is completed, and added that, by making the Valentine Center’s offerings available to the entire student body, the project is in line with Sacred Heart’s overall mission to promote the best college experience for each of its students.
Prospective students are increasingly looking for both academic excellence and exceptional residential, dining and fitness facilities when they tour college campuses, according to William Reidy, SHU’s vice president for university advancement.
The new center will not be “just a place to work out,” he added. “It can also be a social hub for students. This building is another reflection of our continuing commitment to provide students with ways to get involved.”
Reidy also credited Valentine with playing an instrumental role in getting the financial ball rolling on the project. “So much of the fundraising was Bobby bringing us to meet with people in his orbit,” he said.
That orbit is continuing to expand. Bobby Valentine’s Sports Academy, which has been in Stamford for 12 years, relocated last year from 72 Camp Ave. to 4 Largo Drive. The new 40,000-square-foot indoor sports facility is about triple the size of its Camp Avenue location, and features 40-foot ceilings, a 15,000-square-foot turf field, two multisurface areas and six batting cages. In addition to baseball, lacrosse, soccer and football, the venue can host community events for more than 800 guests.
“It’s exceeded all our projections,” Valentine said. “All the cold weather we’ve had this year had been a real godsend, with so many young athletes looking to get ready for their school seasons and needing a place where they can keep their motors running.”
As for the new Bobby V’s Restaurant & Sports Bar, which opened last summer at 268 Atlantic St. in Stamford, not far from the site at 225 Main St. that it called home for 37 years, “We’ve been lucky there too,” Valentine said.
In addition to off-track betting — as with its Windsor Locks locale, Bobby V’s in Stamford has partnered with Sportech Venues to offer OTB under the latter’s exclusive license in the state — Valentine said strong showings by the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox last season, and an especially exciting NCAA Tournament this year, “helped us to exceed all expectations.”
But it’s not all brick-and-mortar business for Valentine. His production company Makuhari Media — named after a community in Chiba City, Japan, where he served two tours as manager of its pro baseball team, the Chiba Lotte Marines — is readying its first feature film, following such sports documentaries as “Muhammad Ali: A Life,” “Doped: The Dirty Side of Sports” and “Schooled: The Price of College Sports.”
“The Greatest Beer Run Ever” will be expanded from a 12-minute documentary Makuhari made in 2015 into a feature-length picture. It’s based on the true story of John “Chickie” Donahue, who during the Vietnam War sneaked into that country’s war zone to deliver Pabst Blue Ribbons to his three closest friends, then serving as soldiers.
“It’s a heck of a story,” Valentine laughed, adding that Makuhari is in the midst of searching for a screenwriter.
As for whether he’d entertain a return to the major leagues as a manager — following mostly successful runs leading the Marines and the New York Mets, his career seemingly imploded after piloting the Red Sox to their worst finish in 47 years in 2011 — Valentine dismissed the idea.
“It’s a young man’s game,” the nearly 68-year-old said. “All the travel and the shifting of authority that’s made you basically a middle-manager — that doesn’t quite fit in the world of Bobby V.”