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‘Game changer’ sports resort being pitched for Bellport

LifeSports Bellport

A 65,000-square-foot clubhouse with dining, retail and entertainment options.

An athletes’ village with team cabanas, lounges and meeting rooms.

Four indoor fields. Twelve outdoor fields with lights.

All of that and much more is being pitched for 90 acres of land south of Sunrise Highway in Bellport — at the current location of the town’s Martha Avenue Recreation Park.

At least, those are the preliminary plans.

So explained Cary Chevat, the CEO of LifeSports USA LLC, which presented the group’s $35 million to $40 million vision for a world-class youth and adult sports mecca called LifeSports New York.

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Chevat explained the facility would be “a destination resort for field sports,” such as soccer, lacrosse, flag football and field hockey, saying nothing like it exists elsewhere in the U.S.

LifeSports, which is registered in Delaware, is seeking a decades-long lease agreement for the parkland, with the group also making payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs), since town property isn’t taxed.

(Correction: This article had indicated there would be a Town Board vote Thursday to enter into good faith negotiations with LifeSports. There will be no action taken this week.)

“We want to create a regional destination for field sports for the whole Northeast” from Massachusetts to the Philadelphia area, Chevat explained Tuesday night, though he said most teams would come from Long Island and closer to New York City.

“If we’re successful, we believe this will raise property values in the whole area,” he said.

The group’s CEO was speaking at a meeting of the South Country Community Café in Bellport in an effort to create and maintain community input and, ultimately, support, during the 15 to 24 months the group is expecting it could take to gain the necessary approvals.

Actually building the project would take another 18 months.

“We’ve seen this presentation twice,” said Councilman Neil Foley, who was in attendance Tuesday. “It looks great. Personally, believe it could be a game changer for Bellport. I think there’s a lot of hoops to go through, and this is one of them, reaching out to the community.”

The plans also call for replacing the lost playing fields at the park with entirely new ones to be located elsewhere on the 110-acre property east of Station Road. Those would be open to the public just like any town park would, but maintained by the private company.

The park facilities would include a baseball/softball field, multipurpose field, volleyball and basketball courts and a new playground, essentially replacing but upgrading the current amenities.

The plans also call for extending the service road — which currently terminates at the park — back into Sunrise Highway.

This way, traffic leaving the facility wouldn’t have to back-track toward Station Road.

“We anticipate that the attendance to the site on a yearly basis would be well over 500,000 people, possibly 750,000,” said J. Timothy Shea Jr., an attorney for the group. “Over half to those people would come from over an hour’s drive away.”

The group is predicting a boon for area hotels, motels, restaurant and other businesses.

Some concerns raised from those in attendance Tuesday night included whether or not local people would truly be given preference for jobs, what type of access local youth sports organizations would have, and where current activities that happen mostly during the summer months would have to be moved, if at all.

The group pledged to give locals preference, provide indoor field access to local teams and incorporate some of the current activities, such as the Safe Summer programs during which local teens use the park at night, into the LifeSports facilities and the new park.

But the representative emphasized they were mostly introducing themselves and the project Tuesday night, and that details of the project were subject to much change.

“We’re willing to sit down with any civic organization, any youth leagues, any adult league, and talk to them about what their concerns might be with regard to the project and what their needs might be,” Shea said.

“We want this to be part of the community and we believe there is room given the size and the scope of the project to make money as a sports complex and to service the community by serving the area youth and being a jobs and revenue generator.”

The group is being funded by private group of investors with varied experience that range from financial to sports management.

The group believes there is a need for such a state-of-the-art facility.

Long Island was picked because of its large population and critical mass of athletic teams, Cavat said, noting the majority of teams would come from Nassau, Suffolk, and in and around New York City.

“Long Island and New York City are very dense with soccer and lacrosse teams,” he said. “It’s got a great population density and Long Island is the lacrosse capital of the United States.”

Foley said the running joke in lacrosse circles is that everyone now drives three or four hours to regional tournaments, “and then we end up playing other Long Island teams.”

If the project is successful, the group would look at funding other locations in the U.S.

mike@greaterpatchogue.com

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LifeSports BellportLifeSports Bellport

About the author: Michael White

Michael White is a Bellport resident, longtime newspaper reporter and editor, and the owner of greaterpatchogue.com. Email him your story ideas or tips: mike@greaterpatchogue.com