by Ray Bendici
Nov 28, 2012
10:55 AMUnsteady Habits
Visit: Chelsea Piers
Don’t let the name fool you: Chelsea Piers Stamford is not on the water in Stamford—it’s landlocked at The Campus on Blachley Road. But you should consider the name because it’s the same company responsible for the enormous (and enormously successful) sports complex on the west side of Manhattan overlooking the Hudson River.
“We learned what worked and what didn’t work in New York and incorporated that into our design here,” says Erica Schietinger, vice president of corporate communications for Chelsea Piers, as she shows me around the 400,000-square-foot facility, formerly a Clairol manufacturing plant. They learned their lessons well: Chelsea Piers Stamford is a bright, open, well-coordinated space, attuned to the needs of active families, right down to windows so low that even the smallest visitors can watch older siblings as they swim, skate or tumble. With so many activities to try and so much state-of-the-art equipment (even an ice skating treadmill!) to use, you almost don’t know what to try first.
Like water? Swim a lap in the Olympic-sized pool, which has an adjustable bottom so the depth can be changed depending on need; there’s also a “Splash Zone” for families with a zero-entry play area and three water slides. Prefer frozen water? Try the two full-sized rinks, complete with free skate sessions and hockey leagues galore. Want to make a “racquet”? There are 11 squash courts and seven tennis courts, including instruction with tennis Hall-of-Famer Gigi Fernandez. Plus, multiple volleyball and basketball courts, batting cages, a full gymnastics-training facility, a 100-yard turf field for football or lacrosse, a running track . . . you can even bounce off the walls—literally—in the trampoline room, or just scramble up them in the climbing area, part of the Adventure Center.
One of the features learned from New York is a second-floor mezzanine that rings multiple courts, rinks and activities to keep parents off the sidelines. “We found that it helps the coaches with the kids if there are fewer distractions,” says Schietinger as we look out over a group of young gymnasts working on their vaulting. “Here, the parents can sit comfortably and watch all the action, and even enjoy a snack.” Chelsea’s Table and The Overlook Restaurant, opened by Gary Hirshberg, co-founder of Stonyfield Farm, provide healthy, organic fare—grab-and-go favorites like fresh salads, sandwiches, soups at Chelsea’s Table, or more traditional sit-down cuisine in the restaurant, which also has a full-service bar, the perfect spot for recreational adult teams to gather for a post-game beverage or two.
Chelsea Piers also has an on-site CP Kids Early Learning Center, a fully accredited child-care center and pre-school—kids who attend get to take advantage of the facility’s offerings, which are a bit more extensive than the average playground.
Also impressive are the 200 staff members, the majority of whom are on duty at any given moment, necessary given the level of instruction, coaching and training going on, including private lessons, clinics and camps, as well as a full schedule for high school teams and adult leagues.
Chelsea Piers offers birthday party packages, family and individual memberships, adult leagues and even single-day passes, although 24 hours doesn’t seem to be remotely enough time to try everything available here.