SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Business

October 26, 2011

New operator takes swing at running Route 1 sports complex

DANVERS — A recently closed indoor sports complex that catered to baseball, softball and other sports has a new operator who plans to reopen soon under the name Route 1 Sportsplex.

The former Strike One Indoor Sport Complex closed at the start of the month, but its sudden demise has left a void on the North Shore youth sports scene, the new operator said.

Chris Conway said he has received more than 100 emails and text messages from people "clamoring to get this open."

"I definitely think there is a real big need," Conway said, pointing to the trend toward year-round sports training. "Obviously, you can't get around the winter weather constraints in this country."

Conway has coached sports for more than 20 years, and he coaches baseball at St. John's Prep as a varsity assistant. He has also served on youth hockey and Little League boards in Lynnfield, where he lives, he said.

It should be pretty much the same business when Conway reopens the facility.

"We definitely plan to reopen it as it was in terms of serving youth sports organizations," Conway said, "baseball, softball, lacrosse, soccer, family indoor recreation.

"We are trying to pick up the ball from the customers who have been served here for the past 15 years." The plan is to get equipment and netting in place and give some areas a fresh coat of paint.

On Oct. 1, former owner Mike Lombardi closed the business after 20 years, 15 of them on Route 1.

Lombardi used to own the building at 199 Newbury St. that housed the facility, but he sold it a little less than a year ago for $3.2 million. Falling rental rates and difficulty in attracting tenants led him to sell.

When he became a tenant, the business could no longer support the rent.

"After a lengthy unsuccessful negotiation with the new landlord to lower the rent, I had to make the decision to leave," Lombardi said in an email.

A message on Strike One's website says it will offer an indoor softball league at Turf Time in Tewksbury.

At the former Strike One, Conway is planning an open house for Oct. 29 from noon to 3 p.m., with the aim to be open around Nov. 1.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter @DanverSalemNews.

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