Kent County and state of Delaware officials celebrated the kick off Wednesday of the $17.7 million Kent County Regional Sports Complex slated to be constructed in a few years.
Greater Dover Committee President Bill Strickland announced Wednesday that Becker Morgan Group was named the project manager and would solicit proposals for a construction firm, concessionaries, an outdoor operator and an executive director for the sports complex.
The Greater Dover Committee and Kent County Levy Court had successfully resubmitted their application for $3.2 million in state money to the Delaware Infrastructure Investment Committee in Dover back in July. Committee and Levy Court officials said in their argument that the sports complex would have an economic impact of more than $18 million annually and create 302 jobs in Kent County.
Namely, hundreds of teams coming to compete in Kent County would bring not just players but their families as well, supporters of the complex said.
"Simply stated, it brings out-of-state license plates to the parking lots of our hotels, restaurants and shopping areas," Strickland said.
Local and state officials celebrated the latest developments of the project on site just off Milford Neck Road and Del. Route 1 on a sunny but chilly Wednesday afternoon.
Youth soccer players from the Central Delaware Soccer Association practiced shooting goals as accolades went around for all involved in bringing the Kent County Sports Complex to fruition, and the Delaware State University marching band drum line and the Milford High School cheerleaders kept the VIP crowd entertained.
Among the CDSA soccer players were Devin Miller, 15, of Magnolia; Brooke Tucker, 14, of Frederica and Promise Sawyer, 15, of Smyrna. Right now, these young ladies play at the CDSA fields in Dover. They looked forward to the opening of the sports complex.
"It'll definitely be bigger," said Miller, a Caesar Rodney High student. "The indoor [field] is going to be the big thing."
Tucker, a Lake Forest Middle School student, looked forward to the regional tournaments the complex would bring.
"I'm looking forward to meeting new people, seeing where they come from and what kind of fields they have compared to ours," she said.
Central Delaware Soccer Association Vice President Mike Womer said the sports complex would improve the caliber of local athletes because they would be exposed to more out-of-state competition.
"Traditionally, we would have to travel hours to get to higher competition," he said. "This will bring the competition to us as well. One of our big focuses is player development and this just aids us in that quest."
The world-class sports venue would have 15 fields, five of which would be artificial turf, a championship field with seating for 1,500 and an indoor venue for year round use.
Page 2 of 2 - "This day is a great example to what happens when leaders of government, business and the community at large come together with a real vision and a common purpose to accomplish something that will benefit all of us," Strickland said.
Strickland gave credit to Greater Dover Committee Executive Director Shelly Cecchett for conceiving of the idea and to "the champions of the sports complex," six of whom gave brief remarks at the kick off. They were: Delaware Tourism Director Linda Parkowski, Kent County Tourism Director Cindy Small, Kent County Levy Court President P. Brooks Banta (D-District 1), State Sen. Brian Bushweller (D-Dover), State Rep. Jack Peterman and Delaware Economic Development Office Director Alan Levin.
"What a great day for Delaware and a fantastic day for Kent County," Banta said. "Not only is this an economic blockbuster, it's a family oriented program."
Also recognized in the crowd were State Sen. Robert Venables (D-Laurel), State Sen. Dave Lawson (R-Marydel), Dover Mayor Carleton Carey Sr. and all Kent County Levy Court Commissioners, including Eric Buckson (R-District 4), who was unable to attend. Buckson's district includes the land Levy Court donated for the sports complex, Strickland said.
Special guest at the ceremony was Olympian and Cape Henlopen High grad Carrie Lingo, who played on the 2008 U.S. women's national field hockey team.
"It's going to be great not only for the state of Delaware but for the youth as well," said Lingo, who played at the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill. "The best athletes around the world are products are facilities like this."
Kent County Levy Court approved the creation of a non-profit, publicly owned Kent County Sports Complex Corporation to run the complex, similar to Delaware Stadium Corp. — the public incorporation that has owned Frawley Stadium and leased it to the Wilmington Blue Rocks, a single A Minor League baseball club affiliated with the Kansas City Royals.