OCEAN PINES – Worcester County officials are now considering a Route 50 location for a sports complex.
During a town meeting last Thursday, Worcester County Commissioner Chip Bertino told constituents that while the initially proposed Route 589 site was off the table, a location on Route 50 was being considered.
“The sports complex I think is going to happen,” he said. “What that impact is going to be to the county remains to be seen.”
Though county officials have been talking about a potential sports complex for years, residents of Ocean Pines—Bertino’s district—were quick to voice concerns earlier this year when they learned a site on Route 589 near its intersection with Route 113 was being considered. Pines residents were worried about the adverse impact additional traffic on the already congested Route 589 would have on the Pines community.
Bertino said the site was no longer being considered.
“There is interest in a parcel along Route 50 and at this time there is nothing more that can be said other than the county is pursuing securing a land appraisal for this particular property,” he said.
When asked if there had been any impact study done regarding a potential complex, Bertino said there had not.
“There’s no plan that’s been presented, there’s no partnership that we have, and at this point there’s no piece of property for the sports complex,” he said. “The impact study is something that I think needs to be done.”
He added that he did think a sports complex would be built and that he wasn’t opposed to the idea but wanted to make sure county residents didn’t foot the bill. Costs for things like marketing, maintenance and management will add up, he said.
“What happens is the cost of that gets gobbled up by the general fund, by the budget,” he said, adding that it would gradually become an accepted part of the budget and could contribute to the need to raise taxes.
Bertino pointed out there were complexes in Wicomico County and in Delaware.
“They’re not going to roll over and play dead,” he said.
County resident Caryn Abbott asked why the sports complex wouldn’t be built in the southern part of the county.
“They sure could use it,” she said.
“We need to balance the development of this county to include the southern part,” he said. “Please make your voices heard.”
When asked what a complex would include, Bertino indicated it was hard to say.
“What’s not to be included? There could be a water park, there could be 11 to 12 sports fields, an indoor sports complex,” he said. “I didn’t hear anything about a rodeo or carnival setting but I don’t know. There has yet to be any sort of plan presented to us.”
An audience member suggested the land near the county’s recreation center in Snow Hill as a possibility. Bertino said former county staff had ruled out most properties.
“They were evaluated and reviewed by people who no longer work for the county and they were designated to be inappropriate and would not work,” he said. “I do believe those decisions were made because of interests that fell outside of what was best for Worcester County.”
Bertino stressed that the commissioners would hold a public hearing before making a final decision regarding the specifics of a sports complex.