Zoning appeals panel OKs site for indoor sports arena Facility would include soccer and softball


WESTMINSTER -- Two Westminster men moved a step closer to building an indoor sports arena here after getting approval from the Carroll County Board of Zoning Appeals Wednesday.

The approved site is located at 525 Old Westminster Pike -- about 800 feet from the intersection of East Main Street and Malcolm Drive behind the former Coca-Cola bottling plant.

Emerson Bair, who purchased the property under contract contingent upon approval of the appeal, and Jim Shank, who will lease and operate the facility, will now seek site plan approval from the county.

The proposed arena will feature indoor soccer, softball and possibly lacrosse. Mr. Shank emphasized in his testimony at Wednesday's public hearing that it will not be a facility where spectators pay admission to watch the games.

"The idea behind the new sports center is to offer competitive indoor leagues for all ages," said Mr. Shank, who leased space at Four Seasons Sports Complex for indoor soccer and softball leagues.

The facility will feature two enclosed, AstroTurf fields; a practice area; men's and women's locker rooms; and a viewing area with a snack bar overlooking the fields on the second floor.

Five people, mostly residents near the site, spoke out against the proposal on Wednesday. Most concerns were directed toward the possible noise and traffic the arena may bring.

"It's understandable," Mr. Shank said. "I'm sure they would be opposed to just about anything going in there. They are used to seeing a nice empty field and now there's going to be something in there."

After three hours of testimony, the board only took a few minutes to approve the proposal. Members deliberated in public as required by the state open meeting law that took effect July 1.

"This is the biggest hurdle," Mr. Shank said. "Had this not gone through we would have been back to square one without any property.

"We have to get approval from a few more boards but we'll be going full tilt and keeping our fingers crossed for opening it up in December or January. We realize that's being optimistic."

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