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Chelsea Piers knocks it out of the park

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Community members agree: Chelsea Piers has been a home run for Connecticut.

In its first year — “fantastic” as the company sees it — thousands have used Chelsea Piers and it has become the preferred practice space for hundreds of athletes.

The 400,000-square-foot facility boasts an Olympic-sized pool, two ice rinks, a rock wall, training facilities for gymnastics, baseball and softball, and courts for basketball, squash and tennis.

“There’s a strong appetite here for sports and we’ve been fully embraced by the Fairfield County sports community,” said Mollie Marcoux, executive director of Chelsea Piers Connecticut. “We’ve had a fantastic year across the board.”

Chelsea Piers in Stamford
Chelsea Piers in Stamford

This month the facility celebrates its one-year anniversary of opening at the former Clairol campus in Stamford. But beyond its offerings for families and professional athletes alike, officials at the Connecticut Convention and Sports Bureau (CTCSB) say the facility is also a knockout punch in terms bringing outside conventions and events into the state.

“It puts the state on the map,” said Susan Henrique, CTCSB director of business development. “It’s a pretty impressive facility. Having them in the state allows us to set ourselves apart from the competition.”

CTCSB, also one year old as of late June, aims to increase the number of conferences and sporting events held in the state, with the concrete goal of generating at 200,000 hotel room rentals a year.

Henrique said it’s rare to find the volume of continuous space Chelsea Piers offers outside of a convention center. Aside from the complex’s predecessor in New York City, no other competitor can claim to have the same combination of meeting space and facilities available for team building, Henrique said.

“The more people are familiar with Chelsea Piers, and exactly what the facility is and how it can be used, the more beneficial it will be,” Henrique said. “If our hotels are aware of the facilities, they have the ability to sell it as an extension of their property and services, too. Long term, it’s a win-win for everyone.”

So far Chelsea Piers has hired 300 employees in Stamford and plans to fill an additional 50 to 100 positions in the next 18 months, as programs grow and the child care facility ramps up, Marcoux said.

The group focuses on hiring locally, but it’s also a magnet employer for professional athletes. Since its opening, employees at the facility have won a number of accolades. Squash director Natalie Grainger was ranked No. 1 female player in the U.S. and No. 1 doubles team player in the world. Gymnastics coach Byron Knox was named coach of the year in 2012 and 2013 for USA Gymnastics and the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Triathlon coach Caitlin Drap has either won or placed second in several ride-run-swim events.

“There’s a lot of talent in Fairfield County and a strong interest in sports from kids of all ages,” Marcoux said. “We’ve learned a ton and will continue to improve on what we know. We’re committed to make this as good of an athletic outlet as it can be for the community, no matter the skill level.”

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