In just a few weeks, one of Wilton’s fastest-growing athletic groups will depart, lured by greener (or at least, bigger) pastures down the road in Norwalk. The Northeast Volleyball Club (NEVBC), which has operated out of Four Seasons Racquet Club since its inception in Fall 2018, announced this month that they have acquired the SoNo Field House, a 54,000-square-foot athletic facility that currently operates programs in soccer, lacrosse, baseball, and softball.
Slated for a soft opening in June, with a grand opening later in the summer, the newly renamed Northeast Athletic Center (NAC) will feature six volleyball courts, doubling the playing space currently available for NEVBC classes and programs. Two-thirds of the property’s indoor turf fields will be converted to volleyball use as part of the renovation, but the owners of NEVBC, husband and wife duo Cat Dailey Minyard and Garrett Minyard, have pledged that the facility will continue to house 12,000 square feet of turf for lacrosse, soccer, and other indoor sports.
Reached by GOOD Morning Wilton, Cat Dailey Minyard explained that the club’s rapid growth has made finding a larger facility a priority. “NEVBC is the only volleyball club and training facility in all of Fairfield County, and we’ve been busting at the seams,” she said, noting that some programs, like summer camp, have more than quadrupled in participation since 2018. “This facility will allow us to serve a larger community and continue increasing the quality of our programs.”
NEVBC had originally explored expanding here in Wilton, beginning conversations with the Planning & Zoning Commission and Architectural Review Board (ARB) last summer about the possibility of building a new, permanent facility on the Four Seasons site.
The Minyards received a positive reception during pre-application hearings with both groups, and land-use officials acknowledged the potential of the proposed facility to attract new visitors to Wilton and to nearby shops and restaurants.
As of June 2021, the Minyards planned to proceed to a full application with Planning and Zoning. So why, one year later, were they now announcing a plan to move their business out of Wilton?
Unfortunately, they were ultimately unable to reach a negotiated deal with Four Seasons on the sale of the northern end of the property, leaving NEVBC without a Wilton site on which to build.
“We’re sad to leave because Wilton has really felt like home,” Cat Dailey Minyard said. “This community embraced us when NEVBC was just an idea.”
She added that the town was “incredibly supportive” about the permanent facility proposal at Four Seasons and the team involved in the application felt confident that the application would get approved, had the site acquisition worked out.
Town Planner Michael Wrinn agreed in a call with GMW, calling the preliminary proposal “a reasonable request.” Although the property would have fallen on an oddly-shaped triangular lot, “You’ve got a large commercial building on the site already for court sports,” he said. “And the new building was not huge in my perspective. Both boards [P&Z and ARB] seemed receptive to an application.”
Within weeks of the property purchase fizzling, the SoNo Field House came available. The new site’s close proximity to I-95 was a plus, as was the ability to move into an existing field house, rather than build from scratch. However, the Minyards hope that the expanded facility and new programming, as well as the club’s tight-knit community, will keep attracting Wilton families despite the added drive time.
“Volleyball is just so, so much fun,” Cat Daily Minyard explained. “Even practice is fun. It’s a high-energy game that encourages team spirit and bonding, whether you’re winning or losing. At NEVBC, we celebrate every point — so every 30 seconds, there’s a reason to cheer.”