BY ROBERT KNIGHT
ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES
A multi-million dollar indoor sports complex is being proposed for a vacant 21-acre site in Orangeburg owned by the Town of Orangetown that was formerly farmland belonging to the old Rockland State Hospital.
Orangetown bought the property, along with several hundred more acres, two decades ago when New York State began shrinking the former psychiatric center campus off Orangeburg and Convent Roads and the Palisades Interstate Parkway.
The town has been trying to figure out how to redevelop the mostly vacant land ever since, selling off a few parcels here and there, mostly for recreational and sports purposes. It has also retained several parcels of land there for its own parks, sports and recreational needs.
The two parcels being sought by the newly formed Orangetown Sports Complex are on the north side of Orangeburg Road and Old Orangeburg Road and the east side of the Lake Tappan water reservoir of Suez – United Water. They include lots 1 and 2 of the arbitrary subdivision of the land made by Orangetown years ago, consisting of 13.8 and 7 acres respectively, with both lots also abutting lot 3, known as the STEJ site.
That 17-acre lot was purchased from Orangetown several years ago by Pearl River developer Edmund Lane, through his STEJ Corporation, who wanted to convert it into an outdoor-indoor private sports complex. He paid Orangetown a reported $1.7 million for the property, based on a negotiated price of $100,000 per acre.
Financing difficulties apparently scuttled that plan, however, and the land has remained vacant ever since.
A few months ago the New York City FC (Football Club), a private soccer league from New York City that is the US affiliate of the FIFA international soccer league, announced it was purchasing the land from STEJ, at an undisclosed price, and would develop it into a headquarters and training camp for their New York Soccer League. The league, a joint partnership of the New York Yankees and the Manchester City football Club of England, currently plays home games at Yankee Stadium and practices at SUNY Purchase in Westchester. Those practices will be moved to Orangeburg as soon as the new soccer complex is constructed. The site will contain one full field, a half-field, a combined clubhouse, office building and equipment storage lockers, along with parking for about 50 staff and player cars.
The proposed Orangetown Sports Complex, or OSC, would construct and operate a large indoor sports building with between 200,000 and 257,000 square feet, and parking for between 500 and 649 cars.
Company spokespersons John Alaimo and Elizabeth Kim told the Town Board in a presentation last week that OSC “will provide cutting-edge sports programming and a wide range of services to athletes, fitness enthusiasts, families and senior citizens in a centralized setting. When completed,” they said, “it will be one of the largest privately owned, state-of-the art multisport complexes in the Metropolitan area that offers experience beyond sports.”
The company is offering Orangetown $105,000 for each of the 13.8 acres, or a total price of about $1,480,000.
So far, the Town Board appears interested in the offer, and has agreed to continue negotiations with the firm aimed at concluding the sale.
If fully developed as described in a 16-page color brochure, the facility would be “More than a sports complex. It (would be) a place where people of all ages can come and enjoy a day of sports, leisure and fun. For Orangetown residents, OSC will represent a place that promotes their physical well-being and accommodates their varied interests and needs.”
It would include an aquatic center, and indoor track and field house, sports courts for volleyball and basketball, a rowing tank, an ice rink, a fitness center, a health and wellness center with a spa and medical services, a dedicated food and beverage area, retail services, youth-related services such as a tutoring center, public space featuring artwork of established and emerging artists an a sports and health-related accelerator program.
The aquatic center will house multiple swimming pools including a 25-yard and 50-yard Olympic size competition pool capable of hosting national level meets. “This pool will greatly benefit Orangetown’s New York Sharks team and Pearl River High Schools swimmers who currently lack a ‘home’ pool.
“A Learn-to-swim and water aerobic pool will be geared towards young swimmers and senior citizens who will appreciate the pool’s warm temperature (88 degrees) and an aqua therapy pool (92 degrees) to assist those individuals who are recovering from injuries or illnesses and those with disabilities.”
“A huge field house will contain a multipurpose turf for a range of sports including but not limited to track and field, football, baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and rugby, as well as a sports performance center, indoor golf facility and batting cages. A NCAA regulation sized indoor track will outline the turf.
“The field house will allow for multiple activities to take place simultaneously, such as indoor walking program for seniors and football practices for children. It will be of great benefit to Orangetown’s high school athletic programs from track and cross-country to field hockey.
“An ice house will house National Hockey League regulation sized ice rinks for activities ranging from ice hockey to group ice dancing. The rink will also be open for public skating during certain hours and be available for rent to Pearl River and Tappan Zee High Schools ice hockey teams for practice.
“The volleyball and basketball courts can be reconfigured for both sports simultaneously or for other activities such as cheerleading. It could also accommodate non-sports activities such as a cultural performance and function as a meeting and social space for Orangetown’s senior citizens.
“A rowing tank mimics the condition rowers face in open water. It is an ideal medium for beginning rowers and for technical teaching. The rowing tank will be beneficial for local groups such as the River Rowing Association (or Rockland Rowing). Currently the nearest rowing tank available for local athletes is up at West Point.
“The fitness center inside the facility will be a full-service gym with dedicated areas for aerobic machines such as treadmills, bikes, elliptical/step machines and ergs and for strength and conditioning. In addition, the fitness center will hold multiple classes throughout the day including spinning, Pilates, hot and regular yoga, aerobics, TRX training, and so forth. Multiple locker rooms with separate spaces for adults and minors and family changing rooms will be provided, as well as wet and dry saunas.
“OSC will have a dedicated health and wellness center which will house a spa and professional medical offices. The spa will offer services ranging from a manicure to a deep tissue massage and cryotherapy. The medical offices will provide both professional and diagnostic services such as physical therapy, orthopedics, fat analysis and metabolic testing. OSC will work in conjunction with a regional hospital to offer the best in some of these medical services onsite and to provide medical pre-screenings to our fitness club members.
“OSC’s food and beverage court will be home to a café serving a variety of healthy and nutritious offerings including fresh organic juices and smoothies, fair trade coffee, sandwiches, salads and so forth. It will also house a casual farm-to-table restaurant and bar. The menu will feature local seasonal ingredients and vegetables from the complex’s greenhouse.
“Retail at OSC will include a pro shop that carries a wide range of sporting equipment for a variety of sports. Other businesses in this section will include a tutoring center and martial arts and fencing studios. Working in partnership with Kravets Wehby Gallery and Neumann Wolfson Art of New York City, OSC will also feature artworks of both established and emerging artists throughout its public space and hold special exhibitions for everyone’s enjoyment.
“Whether it is the next Fit Bit or Oscar Health, OSC’s Sports and Accelerator Program will provide infrastructural and material support to startups in the sports and health related sectors. This program will be housed inside OSC. The aim is to help these startups eventually make Orangetown their headquarters and employ local residents.
Benefits to Orangetown
Alaimo and Kim spent some time describing what they claimed would be the benefits to Orangetown if it eventually agrees to sell OSC the land and approve their development concept.
First would be greater tax revenues from property, sales and hotel occupancy taxes. The land currently generates no income for Orangetown. OSC says Metropolitan Swimming Inc., the regional governing body of USA Swimming; estimates that swim meets alone at the new facility should bring in an estimated $346,000 in combined sales and hotel occupancy taxes for Rockland County annually.
In addition the complex will pay large property taxes to the Town of Orangetown, Pearl River School District and Rockland County, while requiring no services of any kind in return.
Next, the promoters said, OSC would create at least a hundred new temporary and permanent jobs for local town residents.
Additionally, it would enhance the quality of life for all ages in Orangetown and the county, from children to senior citizens.
And finally, they concluded, the complex would result in increased revenues for local businesses engaged in hospitality such as restaurants and hotels with three large hotels being located within a one-mile radius of the proposed facility.
As an example, they said Metropolitan Swimming estimates that swim meets at the complex alone should generate an annual revenue of $3.86 million for the town’s hotel operators.
And finally, they said, the complex would greatly enhance the athletic programs of the town’s three high schools and three colleges, where such sports as swimming, football, soccer and skating are severely limited because of a lack of local facilities in Orangetown.
The Town Board promised Alaimo and Kim a decision on selling them the land soon, and has been busy reviewing their proposal in executive session ever since the presentation.
According to the two site layouts OSC submitted to the council for consideration, the first would contain all of the facilities and parking within the existing lot 1, leaving lot 2 completely vacant.
In the second proposal lot one would contain the building and some parking, while lot 2 would be split, with half used for additional parking and the other half left vacant.
The site is sensitive in Orangetown, especially to environmentalists and historians, because it borders the Lake Tappan Reservoir on the Hackensack River.
Environmentalists are anxious to preserve as much land as possible adjacent to the reservoir for a hiking trail, parkland and a linear nature preserve, while historians are concerned over the fate of an alleged Indian camp site on the complex’s northern shoreline along the reservoir, where a Boy Scout camp existed in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s.
Town Supervisor Andrew Stewart, a Democrat and former executive director of Keep Rockland Beautiful, is one of those favoring public access along the shoreline. Republican councilmen, who make up that party’s 3-2 majority on the council, have not publicly stated their views yet on preservation versus development, but have spoken highly of and supported various development plans submitted to them so far.
The plans submitted by OSC show full development of lot 1 right up to a 200-foot barrier drawn on site maps, separating the proposed complex from the lake shoreline. Alternate maps present a variant of leaving lot 2 completely vacant or splitting it for half parking and half vacant land. Lot 2 is the property that borders the suspected Indian camp ground, and it also contains a small swampy area which the developers are proposing be enlarged and cleared to become a “natural pond” feature of the landscaping.
If the town Board agrees to sell the land to OSC, the proposal would have to be reviewed by several Orangetown and Rockland County agencies, including the two Planning Boards, the Zoning Board, the Architectural Review Board, the town engineer and building inspector and several county and state agencies because the site is on a waterway, a county highway, and a navigable stream, among other hindrances to full development.