Complex Talk Confusing
I continue to be puzzled why the majority of Worcester County Commissioners continue to pursue a sports complex. Their 2017 study pointed out that even after a period of stabilization of three to five years, a taxpayer subsidy of 25% would be required to operate the facility. This does not include the cost of land, nor construction costs. Furthermore, some tournament promoters indicated concerns about the oversaturation of these facilities in the mid-Atlantic region. The county officials decided to forgo the project, perhaps after their own staff believed the projected economic impact was overly optimistic.
Two years later, the Mayor & City Council (M&CC) of Ocean City wanted to push the concept. They paid $49,400 to have a new study conducted. The same consultants were used to provide an update, of sorts. The latest 2020 study which the M&CC sat on for nearly two years before it was released, did not refute the concerns of the 2017 study. In fact, the 2020 study continues to caution about the challenges and threats of competition from regional and national indoor and outdoor sports facilities. The 2020 study makes it clear that the increase of outdoor sports venues in our region needs to be monitored to prevent market saturation. In the 2020 study, there is no mention that Hagerstown is studying the possibility of a multi-use sports & events facility; nor is there any mention that St. Mary’s County, Maryland is also considering a youth sports tournament complex.
We should note the growth of sports complexes in southern Delaware, particularly the one in Frederica and the two near Georgetown.
A glaring flaw in the 2020 study is that they have put Maryland in the South Atlantic geographic region, when we are in the Middle Atlantic region. The significance of this is that sports participation rates in the south are significantly higher in the south than in our region. For example, outdoor lacrosse is shown as almost four times as active in the south as in the mid-Atlantic. Outdoor soccer is shown as almost three times as active in the south as in our region.
Another interesting fact is that in the 2020 study, indoor sports participation rates drop noticeably between 2014 and 2018. The only increase shown is cheerleading. All other sports listed including basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, martial arts and wrestling show a decrease in participation rates. The same occurs in outdoor sports. From 2014 to 2018, every sport reported including soccer, baseball, softball, football and lacrosse showed a drop in participation rates. Note, these drops occurred before Covid.
Regarding proposed outdoor activities, total event days, number of participants and spectators, and total attendee days all drop in 2020 from the 2017 study. It begs the question, have the majority of County Commissioners even read the latest study?
In conclusion, the M&CC had a survey conducted in 2021 to determine tourist interests and feedback. When asked what attractions and activities did one partake in their most recent trip, the combined category of “trade show or sports tournament” scored lowest in answers. Only 7% of the respondents took part in that combined category out of eleven categories listed. That statistic may forecast volumes.
I look forward to a public hearing on the sports complex so that county residents can weigh in on this important project.
Vincent dePaul Gisriel, Jr.
Remembering Margaret Colbert
Margaret was a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother and sibling. She supported me in every endeavor I took on. She was my biggest support. She used to say I was garage kept and that was so true. She took great care of me.
She loved her three children, Kevin, Sharon and Kelly and her grandchildren to a fault. She loved her siblings who returned their love.
Margaret and I met in 1990 at a friend’s dinner party. She was suffering from a divorce and I was suffering the loss of my wife Marian to cancer. The Lord put us together and we spent 32 wonderful years together.
We moved 13 times, ending up in Ocean City. We built a golf course, Deer Run Golf Club. We raised over $1 million for Worcester County charities by hosting golf tournaments.
We introduced golf to Margaret’s siblings and all of our grandchildren. It was the highlight of our time together.
In addition, Margaret took time off to train for a 65-mile bike ride from Salisbury University to Assateague Island at age 72.
She also wrote about her family father called Irish Warrior. Her father was a prize fighter in the 1920s and 1930s. He had 76 fights and defeated Two Ton Galento who was ranked the No. 1 heavyweight contender in the world.
She painted, she took in horses that no one wanted, built a stable and fence and even delivered a baby horse that became a show horse.
Margaret strongly believed in God and she accepted her faith and was looking forward to going to heaven. She is now an angel with God with no more pain and suffering. She will always be there to talk to and to help us all.
She told me she is ready to be with her savior, Jesus. Margaret, I miss you. I hope to see you in heaven soon.
West Ocean City
Park Proposal Support
(The following letter was sent to the Town of Berlin with a copy forwarded for publication.)
After reviewing both proposals for Heron Park, I would like to share with you my thoughts and recommendation. The Gillis-Gilkerson project has appeal only in the fact that it would not require 78 EDUs, though there is no mention of how many EDUs are involved in its development that I remember seeing. They both talk about walkability but do not mention sidewalks on Old Ocean City Boulevard connecting the development to either Main Street or the shopping areas in the other direction. Is the state going to widen that road enough for pedestrians and bicyclists to safely navigate?
If Gillis-Gilkerson project were putting in some type of well-paying industry that would be one thing, but we do not really need more restaurants and whatever else Gillis-Gilkerson project is offering, and we have a need for more affordable housing. I am inclined towards Natelli Communities, even though they called Old Ocean City Boulevard the wrong name (Old Bridge Road). They are offering enough commercial space to be in line with the other commercial establishments and a nice residential community would be more appropriate around the pond areas of Heron Park. Both will be disruptive to the nature park (we are forgetting that is what that actually is), a residential development would be less so.
On the Natelli Communities drawing I did not see where the access to the park was. I am assuming it would be similar to Herring Creek Park in West Ocean City. The Natelli proposal’s real attraction for me is the parcels they are willing to give up around Stephen Decatur Park. That is an area worth developing into the things people talk about for Heron Park. You could conceivably put a small amphitheater at Stephen Decatur Park if we ever get our finances straight. Those parcels would be big enough for a skate park, a dog park and more parking for the park and town events. Parcel 1508 is access to Bay Street which would open the park to more walkability for those on the other side of Route 113. It would make Stephen Decatur Park the center uniting the “East” and “West” sides of Berlin. The police department is right across the street and would be a good deterrent for any problems encountered by those at the skate park or dog park. It would put those amenities close to where you are proposing the Community Center, which could also serve the amphitheater purpose.
The concerns that were expressed about the demolition costs were valid, but they are offering more in monetary value. It seems fair. As to the safety of the area free of environmental issues, I would think that is also fair. It is unfortunate our previous council and mayor did not have that same clause. If the town had enough EDUs to consider the project across Route 50, this one is half of that.
You know I am not in favor of development, but this is something that will give us back $200,000 a year in debt service while adding to the tax base and amenities of the town. It is a project that does not require annexation or much in the way of zoning changes. It might even deter more development for the time being. The added benefit is we would be doing something for the kids of Berlin, not just the “business” of Berlin. If you don’t have any other offers, I truly hope you will consider Natelli Communities as I believe it is a win for the town of Berlin.