The Delaware Infrastructure Investment Committee has committed $3.2 million in state funds for the $17.7 million Kent County Sports Complex slated to be built near Frederica.
The complex will host mainly soccer, lacrosse and field hockey events and could draw up to 10 major annual sports tournaments, officials said.
The committee approved the state funding at its meeting Tuesday in Dover after the Greater Dover Committee and Kent County Levy Court resubmitted their application for state funding, Delaware State Tourism Director Linda Parkowski said. The tourism office first approached Kent County Levy Court about the sports complex about three years ago.
Since then, the Greater Dover Committee has worked with Kent County Levy Court to see the project to fruition, touting the $18 million in annual revenue the complex would bring to central Delaware. The 85-acre athletic field complex is scheduled to be built o the northeast corner of Bay Highway and Milford Neck Road near Frederica. Kent County donated that parcel.
This was a great day for Kent County and the state of Delaware, Levy Court President P. Brooks Banta said.
“The reason that it’s so vitally important is that, No. 1, it will bring a great number of jobs to Kent County,” Banta said. “No. 2, it will bring moms, dads and kids from all over the East Coast to Kent County. And the people that will benefit will be all the hotels, motels and restaurants.
“It’s a win for Kent County and the state of Delaware,” he said.
Indeed, Delaware Infrastructure Investment Committee members stated that the Kent County Sports Complex application qualified for the New Jobs Infrastructure Fund because it created a projected economic impact of $18 million annually and the creation of 302 jobs in Kent County, state officials said.
"This will provide the state with the infrastructure needed to compete for more sports tourism – already a $2.1 billion industry in Delaware," Delaware Economic Development Office Director Alan Levin said in a prepared statement. "We're excited about what this means for the future of Kent County and the state as a whole – this will be a big plus for economic development."
Banta praised the work of Greater Dover Committee President Bill Strickland, GDC Executive Director Shelly Cecchett and committee member Greg Moore, a Becker Morgan engineer, for their work to get the complex approved and built. He also lauded the work of Delaware Tourism Office Director Linda Parkowski, Kent County Tourism Executive Director Cindy Small and the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce.
Sen. Brian Bushweller (D-Dover), another supporter of the project, agreed that approval of the complex was a "team effort." He said the creation of 302 jobs in Kent County was a "huge number."
"The whole objective of the complex is to create economic activity to bring jobs to our county," Bushweller said. "But in addition to creating these jobs, this project is going to draw more people to Kent County and thus expose them to the recreational opportunities we have here, and the tourist attractions we have here, and to other economic development opportunities."
The Greater Dover Committee’s Strickland said the next step was to continue to develop and finalize the funding and to get started on construction of the outdoor fields.
The Goals Group, an indoor soccer and sports management consulting firm based in Columbus, Ohio, will pay for construction costs of the indoor facility, Strickland said. Confidential negotiations with three other vendors for the outdoor fields were ongoing, with the association hoping to pick one of them to construction those fields, he said.
Kent County Levy Court approved the creation of a non-profit Kent County Sports Complex Corporation to run the complex. It was created in the image of the Delaware Stadium Corp., the public incorporation that has owned part of the Riverfront in Wilmington as well as Frawley Stadium on that land. It leases the stadium to the Wilmington Blue Rocks, a single A Minor League baseball club affiliated with the Kansas City Royals. The Blue Rocks pay rent to the Delaware Stadium Corp.
The public owns the corporation, and the firms running the athletic fields will report to the executive director of Kent County Sports Complex Corporation, Strickland said. The director would then in turn report to the corporation’s board of directors.
"We are ecstatic that the committee saw the merit in the economic development potential of the Kent County Regional Complex Association," he said. "I can’t overstate how appreciative we are of the broad-based support that we’ve received from both our public and private leadership to continue to advance this project."