Worcester Commissioners Explore Sports Complex Possibilities

Worcester Commissioners Explore Sports Complex Possibilities
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SNOW HILL– A sports complex in Worcester County could result in as much as a $24 million economic impact, according to a national management company.

On Tuesday, officials from the Sports Facilities Companies (SFC) and AstroTurf Corporation met with the Worcester County Commissioners to share industry information. Eric Sullivan, an SFC representative, said they thought a facility in the county would result in a $12 million to $24 million economic impact.

“I know this is a very high-level range, but this is just to give you some bookends so you can start to think about how this facility would operate, what that would look like,” Sullivan said.

Commissioner Joe Mitrecic scheduled Tuesday’s presentation for informational purposes, as officials have been talking about the possibility of bringing a sports complex to Worcester County for years. Earlier this summer, they agreed to seek an appraisal of property that could potentially be purchased for that purpose.

Sullivan told the commissioners his company specialized in managing sports facilities throughout the country. The company’s success, he said, comes from working closely with a collection of partners at both the national and local level. SFC works with parks and recreation departments, tourism commissions and the like to ensure local needs are met.

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“Then we also work with our regional and national partners to make sure we’re putting Worcester County on the map,” he said.

Sullivan said SFC kicked off a project with planning, looking at things like market impact, location and financing, before moving to development and operation. Pointing to a map that highlighted SFC’s facilities across the country, Sullivan said there wasn’t yet one in the vicinity of Worcester County. The closest SFC-managed locations include Hillsborough, New Jersey, and Harrisonburg, Virginia.

“There’s a nice little hole in the donut here we would love to fill if it’s appropriate to serve the county,” he said.

Sullivan said there were various programming opportunities the county could pursue. A flexible design would ensure different sports could be accommodated.

“Well partner with AstroTurf and really come up with the best design,” he said, pointing to an example of a long field with different striping plans. “What we’ve also got the option to do is look at some different considerations as it relates to really flexible designs and how we can accommodate the most programming. That will do two things. One it will serve a wider reach in the community and have more activities we can program. The other thing that it does it rounds out our shoulder months that’s inherent to the seasonality of sports and allows us to do more programming throughout the entire calendar year.”

He added that the facilities SFC built were versatile and could be used for more than sports. They can also be used for festivals, conventions and community gatherings.

As for the economic impact of a facility in Worcester, Sullivan said SFC had done a benchmark analysis with a hypothetical 12 field, multipurpose facility. Per field, the industry average for a publicly-owned outdoor field is $50,000 of revenue. Sullivan said he expected revenue of $720,000 to as much as $2.1 million.

“I know that’s a big range but go back to where I started—it’s really about the direction you provide us,” he said.  “At the end of the day, essentially the opportunity that on the low end the facility would be at an operational cost to the county because you would be making decisions to invest in other areas with the understanding that you’re getting those monies back in other means. If you’re maximizing venue performance you could operate at a profit and in either scenario you’d be running at a $12 to $24 million direct economic impact.”

He added that the next step would be a more detailed market analysis.

Commissioner Chip Bertino said he felt the presentation was a sales pitch.

“I guess I’m confused as to why we’re getting a sales pitch for something we haven’t even determined if we do it, where it’s going to be,” he said.

When he asked if the county had even heard back from the owner of the property it was interested in appraising, staff said it had not.

Bertino said there were also other companies that provided sports management services.

Mitrecic said that if the county moved forward, SFC was one of the companies that could bid on the project.

“This was brought in for an informational meeting—what can happen out there,” he said. “Every time I turn around I’m being criticized that we don’t have enough information on anything, so I bring somebody in here for informational purposes and I’m criticized for that.”

In an interview after the meeting, Mitrecic said the next step for the county was finding a piece of land suitable for a sports complex.

“We’re still trying to have negotiations with the property owner we’re interested in,” he said.

Mitrecic said the SFC presentation was meant to give the commissioners an idea of the possibilities available to the county. If officials do want to proceed with bringing a sports complex to Worcester County, they’ll need to identify a property, enter into negotiations with the owner and then gather public comment before purchasing it.

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.