Big plans are in the works for expansion of the Connecticut Sports Arena on Still River Road in New Milford.

Co-owner Matt Chila said this week plans are still in the "early exploration" stage.

Yet those plans have New Milford Economic Development Commission members very interested.

"What we'd like to do is put in two outdoor sports fields on the properties on either side of the arena," Mr. Chila said, speaking also for his business partner, Nelson Mingachos.

"We want to put in turf fields for softball, lacrosse, soccer, Little League games, flag football."

The plans could include purchasing the restaurant/club building at 35 Lanesville Road to the west of the arena property -- now home to the Sports Page Cafe -- and renovating it as a restaurant and bar.

Properties of interest are now on the market, Mr. Chila noted, and he has been in "informal conversations" with the owners.

"The infrastructure we've already developed over the last three years, and the plan is solid and so are the people behind it," Mr. Chila said. "But I'm proceeding cautiously, finding out if the town commissions would okay it first. I don't want to get ahead of myself."

Mr. Chila had an informal discussion May 8 with the Zoning Commission. Two days later, he was before the Economic Development Commission, getting a sense of its perspective on his proposal.

To install outdoor fields on the property, the zoning for the parcels would have to be changed from the R-1 to a B-2 zone.

While not a "fan of spot zoning," Zoning Commission Chairman Bill Taylor said he recommends Mr. Chila apply for a zone change just to the parcels in question.

"We don't want to change the use of the R-1 zone to include sports fields," Mr. Taylor said.

"It would take the teeth out of our industrial zone. But we considered the ability of sports fields to attract retail business, and decided to see what we could do to help.

"My son was on a soccer team and we traveled all of the time," Mr. Taylor said. "Newtown holds a soccer tournament that brings in 100 teams. It's a huge flood of business for the retail market with families coming into town."

Garland Warren, a member of the Economic Development Commission, was present at the May 10 meeting.

"From an economic perspective, his plans make sense," Mr. Warren said. "I don't think the use would be incompatible with the area. There's the Phys-Ed sports property right next door."

Mr. Warren said Mr. Chila "seemed confident and passionate" about the project.

Sports tournaments could have a large draw, bringing shoppers in from out of town, he added. Mr. Warren's concern would be about the possible impact of outdoor sports on Lanesville Road residents.

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322