DANBURY, Conn. – A vision two decades in the making for Kirk Bamford and Ray Franklin came to fruition Thursday when the Danbury Sports Dome held its grand opening.
The 120,000-square-foot structure with its 90-foot ceiling opened last month after 13 months of construction. The facility includes turf fields that can be used for soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, football, baseball and softball. There are rooms for birthday parties, a quarter-mile track, snack bar and meeting rooms. It is touted as the largest domed facility on the East Coast.
Bamford and Franklin, long-time soccer coaching friends, began loose discussions on a such a facility 20 years ago.
“It’s been a long road,’’ said Bamford, who along with Franklin is a director at the Dome. “You have these moments you feel it’s out of reach. But we believed in what we were doing. It came together with the support and the work of a lot of people.”
Franklin said the final structure is precisely the way he and Bamford envisioned it. “It’s what we thought it would be, right down to the bolts,’’ Franklin said. “It’s going to cater to everybody, from teams to coaches and players. There are kids all over the place. That’s exactly what we want.”
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton cut the ribbon in front of a soccer goal during Thursday’s official ceremonies. Frank Mariano, project’s owner and developer, and Steve Lipman, one of the directors who helped pull the project together, were among the other officials on hand. The celebration continues Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Contractors broke ground for the Dome in late June 2012, and officials said then the structure would be open in October. Construction and weather delays pushed pack the opening through the winter. In February, Franklin said he hoped the Dome would be open in April.
The process took longer than people figured, but in the end, Bamford and Franklin got the facility that they wanted.
“There’s a great sense of pride,’’ Bamford said. “But this is just reaching first base. We think it’s going to be one of the premier places for teams and athletes. We’re excited to get started.”