Wicomico Civic Center Study Funds OK’d

SALISBURY – The County Council moved ahead this week into Phase II of the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center study by applying for funding from the state.

On Tuesday, the County Council reviewed a resolution approving the state of Maryland Board of Public Works Capital Project Grant application to authorize County Executive Rick Pollitt to execute the capital project grant application.

According to the resolution, the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center is an aging facility in need of being restored and upgraded. An assessment of the structure and its equipment related to the operation and event support was undertaken in 2005 by the Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism. The evaluation is updated annually and it was determined that the building is in need of several upgrades.

The grant amount is for $1.5 million and the county is to match that amount. The grant will be used for Phase II of improvements being recommended by the Maryland Stadium Authority. Phase II of Civic Center renovations includes the design and determining costs for the recommended improvements noted above.

In late January, Wicomico County’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism released Phase I’s results of the market and analysis study of the WYCC prepared by the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) and Crossroads Consulting Services. The study was conducted to determine whether the facility should be renovated, expanded or rebuilt to best serve county residents and visitors.

The estimated project schedule to complete the design is by July, and the construction is proposed to begin at that time and be completed by July of 2015.

Recommended construction includes expanding the facility to add a dedicated ballroom, additional dressing room areas, and additional exhibit space outside the Normandy Arena. Recommended upgrades include, but are not limited to, replacing the seats and improving seating bowl for better sightlines, improving the front and back house support space, improving overall facility layout to host simultaneous events and a mechanical curtaining system to allow the arena to be downsized for smaller events

Council President Joe Holloway and Council Bob Culver expressed their disappointment in being presented with the decision on such late notice.

“This is something that has been in the plans for a long time and it seems as though that we keep getting things just exactly a couple days before they need to be submitted,” Joe Holloway said.

Recreation, Parks and Tourism Director Gary Mackes explained that the bond for the project had been issued three years ago and the county was waiting on the results of Phase I to move on. Following the MSA’s presentation in January, the next step would be to lock in the funding for Phase II.

“Obviously it wouldn’t be wise to make any kind of commitment to structural changes until you get architectural engineering work done,” Mackes said. “I don’t understand the cost and the alarm because you are just locking in money that was approved three years ago and the scope of the project will be turned in when you get the second set of work done in the second study.”

Mackes furthered that when the bonds were first sold it was in good intentions that with that money the state would become a funding partner and that the process needs to move forward into Phase II in order to keep the civic center competitive in a viable market.

“My concern is we don’t want to be in a position of losing funding once again in Wicomico County … we shouldn’t be in that position if we have an opportunity to again partner with the state,” Councilwoman Sheree Sample-Hughes said.

The County Council voted unanimously to allow Pollitt to submit the capital project grant application to move on into Phase II of the WYCC study.