A domed multipurpose sports field might be constructed in the foreseeable future at Mineola’s Wilson Park.
The Nassau Dome Sports Complex (NDSC) LLC made a presentation at last Wednesday night’s Mineola board of trustees meeting for a $2.75 million dome structure that would house a turf field surface with dimensions of 105 yards by 65 yards.
Leigh Pilkington, CEO of Regal Sporting Group, the consulting arm of NDSC, said the 78,000-square foot air supported dome facility would be privately funded to establish a soccer academy sponsored by professional Portuguese soccer club FC Porto, and would provide playing space for teams sponsored by the Mineola Athletic Association (MAA) and Mineola Police Athletic League (PAL).
“We’re always going to look to give back to the community,” Pilkington said. “It’s a great opportunity. We’re the right group at the right time to do something like this.”
He said NDSC’s prime objective is to establish a partnership between FC Porto and the Village of Mineola. He said Spanish professional club Valencia CF has also expressed interest in participating in the venture.
“They’re looking to set up an elite soccer academy to develop professional players,” Pilkington told the Mineola village board.
The inflatable domed structure would occupy field 3 at the Wilson Field complex bordered by Liberty Avenue and Second Street and parking would be established for 95 cars.
Pilkington said NDSC would seek to set up a training schedule for teams in various sports by dividing the field surface into quarters. NDSC would aim “to make sure everybody in the community gets access,” in early morning hours, he said.
Pilkington said NDSC’s proposal includes establishing a 30-year pact with the village with a schedule of annual licensing fees that would ultimately total $1.77 million. Licensing fees to be paid to the village would start at $40,000 in the first year, rising to $50,000 in the second year and $60,000 in each subsequent year.
The 64-foot high dome would be constructed by Arizon Air Structures. Jim Stevens, Arizon regional sales manager said noise from pumps used to inflate the dome would not disturb activities at adjacent fields in Wilson Park. He said the facility would have its own generators to maintain the opaque dome—which would feature a skylight and internal lighting—in case of a power outage.
Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss said his primary concern would be to ensure that local athletes would have ready access to the facility.
“We’re concerned with our neighborhood kids, that they wouldn’t be shut out,” Strauss said.
Pilkington said MAA and Mineola PAL teams would have free access to the field approximately half of the time throughout the year with hours extending to midnight. NDSC would charge rental fees to outside teams for training or tournament play for 25,000 hours per year. But Pilkington said local sports teams would have first options on usage of the field and that NDSC would provide uniforms for local teams.
Responding to a question from Trustee Paul Cusato, he said MAA teams would have access to the field from 6 to 9 p.m.
Pilkington said the Regal Sporting Group has a “solid international reputation as a group that can produce results” and has consulted with many professional soccer clubs worldwide. The NDSC proposal was the sole response to an RFP issued by the village board a few months ago to turf the Wilson Park fields.
In 2012, NDSC had proposed plans for a $25 million sports complex in Eisenhower Park, responding to an RFP issued by Nassau County at the time. That proposal was left in limbo due to the county’s financial oversight strictures at the time, Pilkington said.
He declined to disclose the group’s source of funding for the Wilson Park project during his presentation. In response to a reporter’s question afterward, he said the group had secured funding for the project from a private investment group led by a local real estate developer. During the presentation, he said FC Porto might also invest in the venture, but preferred that the money come from a U.S. firm.
In addition to FC Porto and Valencia CF, Pilkington said partners in the venture would include New Balance, EA Sports, the American Cricket Federation, U.S. Lacrosse, and advocacy organizations including Let All the Children Play, the New York State Office for people with disabilities and PreventObesity.net.
Frank Pizzari, MAA president, expressed concern that the Porto soccer academy would be drawing on the same pool of young athletes who compete on MAA teams, primarily aged from four to 16 years old.
Tim O’Connell, director of operations for the Mineola PAL, questioned use of the facility by multiple teams simultaneously.
“You’re never going to have two or three groups on this field. That won’t work,” O’Connell said.
Pilkington said the FC Porto academy would not seek to recruit athletes from the MAA. And he reiterated the field could be divided into quarters to enable soccer, baseball, softball and lacrosse teams to share the facility for training.
When Trustee Dennis Walsh asked why Mineola was chosen as the location for the domed field, Pilkington said it was a central location on Long Island and it seemed like a natural fit between FC Porto and the large Portuguese community in Mineola.
After the presentation, Strauss said the NDSC proposal is “worth looking at.” He said the village board had explored installing turf fields in Wilson Park and gave up the idea because preparation work alone would have cost $8 million.
He said NDSC also would construct an outdoor turf field for soccer on the north end of Wilson Park. But he said the village board would need to consult with the MAA and the Mineola PAL before proceeding further on the proposal.
“We get a turf field. We don’t lose any playing time,” Strauss said. “If all the stars align, this is a go.”