DEVENS — The unlikely story of an old military base’s transition to a hub of Hollywood-style productions took a leap forward Tuesday, with Massachusetts officials breaking ground on a $30 million soundstage complex in Devens.

The new studios, which will include four 18,000-square-foot soundstages, are expected to be open for business in a year.

Chris Byers, director of operations for New England Studios at Devens LLC, said the top-of-the-line facility, coupled with the state’s film tax credit, will lure television and film productions, as well as hundreds of jobs, to Massachusetts.

“I don’t think anybody will believe how successful this thing is going to be,” Byers said. “I think it will surprise a lot of people.”

The series of events that led Byers to open Massachusetts’ first major sound stages could have been cooked up in Tinseltown. And it started in Lowell.

Byers, 48, grew up in the Mill City, the son of Frank Byers, who co-owned Caddell & Byers Insurance Co., of Lowell.

After starring as a hockey player at Cushing Academy, a prep school in Ashburnham, Byers moved to Europe where he briefly played hockey professionally. Byers’ hockey career also took him to Illinois, Indiana and New York, where he played for several minor-league teams.
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