County Approves Accord To Move Stadium Study Ahead

BERLIN – A feasibility study meant to measure the potential of a sports stadium in Worcester County is expected to move forward following the county’s approval of a memorandum of understanding with state officials.

On Tuesday, the Worcester County Commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Maryland Stadium Authority that outlines plans for the feasibility study set to precede the possible construction of a sports arena in northern Worcester County.

“I think it’s very important we move forward with this,” Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said. “It’s important to tourism and it’s important to the county.”

The commissioners voted 6-1, with Commissioner Chip Bertino opposed, to approve the MOU so that it could be ratified by the Maryland Stadium Authority board at its Oct. 6 meeting. The MOU was described by Merry Mears, the county’s deputy director of economic development, as the final agreement between Worcester County, the Maryland Stadium Authority and its consultant, Crossroads Consulting. The study will evaluate market demand for each of the proposed stadium’s three components — an arena for a minor league hockey team, a practice rink and an outdoor sports complex. The $47,600 study is being funded with $15,000 from Worcester County, $5,000 from Hat Trick Consulting (the firm that fist put the idea forth), $15,700 from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) and $11,900 from the Maryland Stadium Authority.

Mears said that if any of the project’s components were deemed viable by the study, a second study would be done to estimate potential economic and fiscal impacts. That $27,400 study would be funded solely by DBED and the Maryland Stadium Authority.

Bertino asked whether the county had a funding commitment from Hat Trick Consulting, the Texas-based company that put forward the concept of bringing a minor league hockey team to Worcester County earlier this year, in writing. Mears said the county did not. She added that the county would also have to apply to DBED for its portion of the study cost.

When Bertino asked if there was criteria the department would take into account before providing funding, Mears said its officials would look at the project location.

“There are a few tricky spots in this,” Mears said. “DBED’s money has to be used in priority funding areas. What we don’t know at this time is where the complex would be located. The point of this study is to provide the opportunity to a developer to come in. At that point in time, we’d know if it was in a priority funding area. That being said I was not told by them not to apply. I was told it just might take a little longer in the process to get everything situated.”

Bertino asked where the priority funding areas were. Ed Tudor, the county’s director of development review and permitting, said they were spread throughout the county. He said each of the county’s municipalities was a priority funding area, as were other areas.

“You’ve got a smattering of things all over the place,” he said.

Mears said she intended to get the money from the other parties involved before the study was performed.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” she said. “I don’t think the unknowns will be a barrier to securing funds from DBED.”

The commissioners agreed to approve the MOU on the condition that Worcester County receives the necessary funding from the other agencies involved.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.