Sports dome firm "borrows" space at Fairgrounds
By Patsy Nicosia
Imagine an eight-acre sports dome, 160-feet tall and big enough inside for six Little League fields and you'll get an idea of the project being constructed by Air Structures American Technologies Inc. at the Cobleskill Fairgrounds.
Since late September, ASAT has been using the wide-open space at the Fairgrounds to assemble pieces of a 12-section cable net grid that will eventually be shipped to East Fishkill for what could be the world's largest air-structure multi-sports dome.
Though ASAT's corporate headquarters are in Rye Brook, the company's manufacturing facilities are nearby in East Worcester, said Bill Fraioli, who runs the family-owned company with his wife, Denise.
Typically, Mr. Fraioli said, they assemble grids in their East Worcester parking lot.
This project is so big, though, that they needed more space to work unimpeded by things like columns and light poles.
After considering places like local schools and even SUNY Cobleskill, it was Ms. Fraioli who suggested the Cobleskill Fairgrounds.
"And we couldn't be happier there," Mr. Fraioli said. "They've been wonderful to work with. When people work together like this, amazing things happen. Since the 1970s, I've been going to the Cobleskill Fair so to be building there now is really something special for us."
ASAT got its start locally as a hunting camp in East Worcester in 1972.
After adding to the property, the Fraioli family turned it into a farm and then, about 20 years ago, moved their tarp manufacturing division there.
The entire manufacturing facility eventually followed.
Mr. Fraioli said the concept behind the sports dome is simple-but complicated.
"It's a lot like basket-weaving," he said.
Working on the ground, employees connect vinyl-coated pieces of cable in a large grid that's then wrapped and stored in sections in what looks a lot like round hay bales.
In the spring, the sections will be shipped to a site in East Fishkill where they'll be unrolled and then matched up precisely and then construction of the dome-which also includes a weatherproof fabric sheeting, turf, and lighting-is expected to take about six to eight weeks.
Mr. Fraioli said they're hoping for a soft opening in June and then a grand opening in September.
Typically, ASAT only manufactures air structures; the one in East Fishkill is the first they'll be owning and operating too.
Mr. Fraioli said it's intended for multi-sports use-everything from soccer to lacrosse-but as a 17-year Little League coach, he's sees it as something that "could absolutely change Little League baseball."
"Once you get into southern Pennsylvania, it's difficult to compete with kids who are playing year-round," he said. "All of our sport domes are heated, air conditioned...athletes can use them 12 months a year."
If the weather holds out, Mr. Fraioli said they'll be wrapping up their work at the Fairgrounds by the beginning of November.
To get a look at what ASAT's sports domes look like, visit their website, Asati.com.