Ocean City Today

County hears outdoor sports complex pitch

By Brian Gilliland | Aug 03, 2017

(Aug. 4, 2017) While the idea of Worcester County having its own indoor sports stadium was put to rest back in April, a portion of the project — an outdoor sports complex — survived, and the first review of how that might work was presented to the county commissioners on Tuesday.

The Stadium Authority, which manages state involvement in local sports and convention centers, recommended a minimum of eight fields suitable for soccer, rugby, lacrosse and related activities, plus an artificial turf field to maximize tournament opportunities along with related concession, restrooms, parking and site-wide Wi-Fi.

This plan would require a minimum of 32 acres on a site yet to be determined for the fields, plus another eight for parking. Any possible future expansion would also have to be factored in, as well as the accessibility to residents and travelers.

The authority also recognized the facility would also operate at a loss between $136,000-$155,000 annually after expenses were covered, but could earn between $12-$14.8 million, bringing between $446,000-$551,000 in local tax revenue and between $1.9-$2.4 million in state tax revenue. It was estimated to bring about 400 jobs to the region, though not necessarily tied to the complex itself.

“The next step is the site study, which could cost $400,000 to identify a site and determine the feasibility of that site,” County Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said. “To be honest, I’m not certain of what the next step is. We’re looking for ways to offset that cost.”

Mitrecic, who represents Ocean City, said there is more upside in terms of taxes if the state could be convinced to at least partially fund the site study. The operating deficit, he said, is also based on the county operating the complex by itself, something Mitrecic said was never under consideration.

The responsibility to find that funding would be a joint effort between Merry Mears, director of economic development and Paige Hurley, director of recreation and parks, Mitrecic said.

“The Stadium Authority’s best guess is it would cost $400,000 for everything, but it all doesn’t have to come from the county. The state could contribute, or a landowner could. That’s not to say the county would have no skin in the game,” Mears said.

Mears explained that the path forward would ultimately be determined by the commissioners, who will have to consider the costs and rewards.

“It’s not an easy discussion. This is something the county has never done before and will involve lots of planning and input,” she said.

Possible benefits highlighted by the authority during the presentation include enhancing the quality of life for residents, enhancing the county’s image as a destination, fostering the development of players, broadening the market reach to new visitors and attracting visitors during non-peak months.

For a season ranging from March 1 to Nov. 30, the authority estimated the complex would draw between 17-21 events bringing up to 110,000 participants and spectators to the venue. Those people could generate up to 62,475 hotel stays during events, according to the presentation.

The authority noted 90 percent of event activity would be new to the county.

Media exposure could also increase by the coverage of events in the county.

As this was just an informational presentation, the commissioners took no formal action on the presentation.

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