LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Truly Independent Wrestling is having trouble settling into its new home.
The fairly recently formed company is planning to hold monthly wrestling shows and workshops teaching sports entertainment. The independent promoters formed last year and held shows in Pittsfield and recently signed a lease at the Berkshire Mall, utilizing space in the former Old Navy store.
But the building inspector has concerns and wants more documentation filed before the next show on Aug. 26. The wrestling promoters say they did what he asked. Both claim the other hasn't been responsive to requests.
The organization moved to the mall and scheduled its first event on July 15. A few days before, however, Building Inspector Rick Reid contacted them and said the space didn't have the proper permits to go forward. Because it was once a store, Reid says the organization needs to file paperwork for a change of use, and that needs an engineer's full report on code compliance.
"We did let the one event happen but I found out on a Thursday and it wouldn't be right to cancel it. You guys were having it Saturday. So we jumped through some hoops, let it go through, and it went through without a hitch. I don't think there was a problem," Reid said. "I'm glad for that and I don't mind going forward. But we have to go forward with something that is good for all of us."
Owner Scott Fellows said he hired an engineer and performed the proper review in time for the July event. The group also upgraded the exit and exit signs and had the sprinkler system and fire alarms checked. He said all of that information was filed with the building inspector, and then the July event was allowed to go on — and they thought it was enough for future events as well.
"We were given the go-ahead to proceed with our event. But for reasons that are unclear to us, we were given an attendance of 150, which we felt was small for the size of the venue. Regardless, we complied with the limitations and were forced to turn away paying customers within 15 minutes of opening our doors," Fellows said.
Reid said about a month ago, following the event, he met with engineers for the wrestling company and outlined an array of additional reviews that must be done. And then he said he heard nothing back.
Eventually, the company came in asking for its business permit and Reid denied it because the Chapter 34 review for the change of use wasn't completed.
Reid said the entire space needs to be looked at — from entrances and exits to the bathrooms to the walls. He said there are specific codes for assembly use that is different from retail use. After not hearing anything new for a bit, he said he reached out to mall management have it contact the wrestling company to make sure the work was completed.
"It is too complicated for me to explain to them. It is not that they can't understand it, it is that they can't even do it, it has to be done by an engineer. They are over 32,000 cubic feet so anything that is done in that building has to be overseen by an architect and an engineer. My license doesn't even work in that venue. It has to be a registered professional," Reid said. "That's what I've been looking for."
Fellows went to the Board of Selectmen on Monday night looking for exactly what needs to be done. He said for weeks he has tried to get information from Reid about how to proceed to ensure the next event can be a go, but that the inspector hadn't been responsive.
"We were met with further resistance regarding continuing our operations within the space of the Berkshire Mall. Our conversations with Building Inspector Reid have not been productive to date. We feel we have met significant resistance in trying to rectify any issues the town has found concerning and our last encounter with Mr. Reid, we were met with combative conversation," Fellows said.
"It is not our wish to strain our relationship with the town of Lanesborough, we only seek to operate as a legitimate business and bring quality entertainment to Berkshire County."
Fellows said he has an inspection of the fire alarms scheduled this week and that they are waiting for a more detailed report from the sprinkler company — the one the company filed hadn't been detailed enough for Reid.
Reid said the engineer needs to be on board for these next two weeks to review and sign off on a lengthy list of regulations. He said all the guidelines for the teaching area and the assembly space need to be followed and double checked with the change of use. It is a safety issue, he said.
"There has been plenty of notice with this," Reid said.
The Board of Selectmen tabled the request for an entertainment license. But Chairman John Goerlach said as soon as the engineer can complete the work, he will call a special meeting to help make sure the event goes as planned.
"Anything that progresses the community so we look forward to seeing this happen. But we need to satisfy the inspectors with the correct paperwork," Goerlach said.
The wrestling company said it would be back in contact with the engineer and hopes to appease the town. But the 12 days may not provide a large enough window for everything to be completed.
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