SOMERS, N.Y. - Although plans for a new indoor sports arena are still very much in the talking stage, some folks in Somers are already raising concerns about the project’s potential impact on local traffic and a nearby nature preserve.

New York City-based Riverside Development Group (RDG) is thinking about building a 100,000-square-foot sports and indoor entertainment facility on a 43-acre site just south of The Paramount Somers Nursing and Rehabilitation Center (formerly Somers Manor) on Route 100.

The site abuts Angle Fly Preserve, a 654-acre land trust crisscrossed with hiking trails.
Under consideration are indoor “adventure” activities such as rock wall climbing and trampolining, and artificial turf baseball and football fields as well as tennis and basketball courts.

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Both the town and developers are in information-gathering mode, with RDG president and founder Ari Schwebel saying the project is “in its infancy stage.”

The Town Board plans to seek more input from the public, and other interested parties, sometime this fall, said Supervisor Rick Morrissey.

RDG’s project engineers Paul Sysak and Marc Petroro of JMC Site Development Consultants presented the results of a preliminary traffic study to the board at its July 5 work session.

The study looked at traffic patterns attached to an Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park in Hackensack, N.J., reportedly one of the franchise’s highest grossing venues.

The engineers, who projected Somers’ traffic patterns all the way out to 2023, focused on Route 100’s intersections with routes 35, 139, and 202, and Plum Brook Road.

They also incorporated factors such as the future occupancy of both the former PepsiCo property, which has a nine-story, 540,000-square-foot building on a 200-acre site overlooking the Muscoot Reservoir, and the 1.2 million-square-foot former IBM campus off Route 100.

JMC’s study found that, although traffic volume will increase on local roads, levels of service – ie. delays – at those intersections will still be “acceptable,” Sysak said.

Councilman Richard Clinchy noted that the town’s master plan projects an increase in normal traffic by 3 percent a year. JMC said it based its numbers on an increase of 1 percent a year, which it said is accepted by the state Department of Transportation.

The Hackensack Urban Air facility gets about 15,000 attendees a month; RDG is hoping for 8,000 a month in Somers, Schwebel told the board.

The Somers sports facility could have 400 parking spaces, but “400 people parked at one time is never going to happen,” Schwebel said.

Events and programs at facilities like these have time limits, usually two hours, so folks will be coming and going at different times and not all at once, he explained.

Open seven days a week, the Somers facility would likely be busiest on the weekends when children are out of school.

Councilman Thomas Garrity said that traffic on Route 100 is already a bear, especially during rush hour, and folks sometimes have difficulty making a left turn out of Somers Manor.
Input on Angle Fly Preserve

Concerns were raised at the work session about the project’s proximity to Angle Fly Preserve, which Clinchy called “one of the jewels of Somers.”

The preserve’s most popular hiking trail runs along the ridgeline behind the proposed sports arena site. 

Somers Land Trust president Michael Barnhart and member-at-large Bob MacGregor told the board that they were concerned about maintaining vegetation and “buffering” and hoped that the “beautiful views” and sensitive habitats for amphibians such as frogs and turtles are preserved.

Barnhart said the preserve has a “very rich” and diverse ecology. “We even have a bobcat up there,” he added.
Angle Fly’s meadow, one of the largest in Somers, is a bird sanctuary.

Even lighting at night has to be considered as it could affect bird life and change animal patterns, Barnhart said.
MacGregor and Barnhart also serve on the town’s Open Space Committee.

“We wear two hats,” MacGregor said later.

The committee provides input to the town and planning boards on conservation and environmental issues. The Land Trust manages Angle Fly Preserve.

When and if RDG comes forward with a formal plan, the committee will review it and advise the town.
“It’s our responsibility to ensure that we protect the Angle Fly Preserve and its environment,” MacGregor said later.

Local business worried

John Degl, owner of Somers Sports Arena, a 10-year-old facility located just a mile up the road, told the Somers Record that he was worried when he first heard the scuttlebutt about possible competition in town, but feels that there is still room for growing scholastic and recreational athletics in the mid-Hudson Valley.

SSA, a 20,000-square-foot recreation venue, rents out space in a former warehouse to programs that use two indoor turf fields for JV and Varsity football, lacrosse, soccer, and girls’ field hockey games. Its clients include a travel baseball and performance training center, BAT Silverbacks, and Ted Lawrence’s 9ers Baseball program.

Also renting space there is Westchester Adventure Boot Camp, a specialized training program for women.

Degl himself runs the Empire Wrestling Academy in a separate building on the Route 100 site.
SSA hosts various charity events benefiting causes such as TLC Foundation, the Girl Scouts, Special Olympics, and Love Holds Life.

Referring to several existing sports venues in Carmel, Mount Kisco, and Danbury, Conn., Degl said that the region is pretty much spoiled for choice.

He also pointed out that ground has already been broken for the 347,000-square-foot Sports KingDome with 12 turf fields in Dutchess County’s East Fishkill, which, according to its website, “is rapidly becoming one of the most talked baseball, softball, field hockey, lacrosse and soccer tournament destinations in the Northeast.”

Degl still worries that the new Somers athletic facility -- if it comes to fruition -- might affect his business.
“Because it would be so brand-new – with all the bells and whistles – it could gobble up some of our clientele,” he said.