Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – December 2, 2022

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – December 2, 2022

The Maryland Stadium Authority’s updated “market and economic analysis” for the proposed sports complex in northern Worcester County was released this week. The scope of the work was carried out with the concept of the facility including eight to 10 outdoor athletic fields and an 125,000-square-foot indoor facility. The report serves as a current market analysis, includes new cost estimates and follows up the 2019 study that was non-site specific.

The report is a valuable document as far as research and providing an estimated cost to develop the project. Unfortunately, the report’s credibility took a hit when without any supporting documents it concludes “The proposed site has the capacity to accommodate the new Sports Complex and is generally considered to be adequate to excellent based on evaluation of physical site factors, vehicular/pedestrian access and contextual design issues.” A rendering of the project shows two entrances and exits – one at the eastern most point of Old Ocean City Boulevard and another off Route 50 close to the entrance to Stephen Decatur High School. The report’s rendering shows the indoor facility at the northeast corner of the property with eight typical sports fields surrounding it and two more fields capable of being used for baseball or softball as well as soccer or lacrosse, for example.

It’s challenging to know at this point whether the cost and usage estimates are realistic. Once operational, it was predicted between 54 and 64 annual tournament events (more than one a week) will be held annually, resulting in as many as 111,100 direct net new room nights locally. The report states “in addition to tournament activity, the proposed new sports complex could host additional activities such as county sports programs, clinics, leagues, etc.” While the report expects the facility to operate at a deficit, it concludes in a stabilized year of operation approximately $10.1 million in gross tax revenue is possible. The report also states between 830 and 980 net new jobs will be created locally.

Perhaps the most important part of the study aside from the conclusion of “the proposed sports complex is estimated to generate significant economic impacts at the local and state levels” is an updated look at how much it will cost to develop the site. The estimates do not include the $7 million price tag to buy the private property. The cost of construction was put at a total of $153.5 million — $67.6 million for outdoor fields and $91.2 million for indoor facility. This is a shocking figure, but the report recommends the next steps be researching “potential operating and programing partnership with various public and/or private organizations,” developing policies, rates and an extensive financial plan and creating a funding plan “that covers development costs, which may include both public and private sector partners.”

Before any of those steps can be weighed is a looming vote at the Worcester County Commissioner level on how the site will be purchased. It seems likely the funding will have to come from the county’s reserves. The extended contract for the property lists a new settlement date of Jan. 31, 2023. Based on public positions and comments made, the votes do not appear to be there to proceed once the new slate of commissioners in office.

There were several noteworthy deaths of well-known individuals in the area over the last week. No passings should be minimized, but the passing of 18-year-old Joshua Alton on Tuesday has been on my mind all week. Josh’s death comes about seven weeks after he was surprised with the honor of being named Stephen Decatur Homecoming King. In a Facebook post, the school posted, “Today #DecaturNation lost a family member, not just a Seahawk, a Seahawk warrior. Josh Alton, your courage, spirit, and brave battle was an inspiration to us all. You are, and forever will be, our King. May you soar in peace.” Alton was also on hand last Saturday for the lighting of the Autistic Children’s Support Group of Worcester County’s tree in Ocean Pines. He would die just three days later, confirming his spirit and will remained strong till the end.

I never met Josh but watched him from a distance last August during the annual Surfers Healing event when an unforgettable moment unfolded. A team of volunteers worked together to give him a lift on a special board into the ocean followed by a nice ride. At this point, Josh, who has Autism, had lost the use of his legs following complications from a surgery associated with his diagnosis of Stage IV Metastatic Ewing Sarcoma. He and his family’s health journey since his diagnosis has been difficult. While the outcome may have been expected after a series of setbacks, the suddenness of his death is shocking. Numerous touching Facebook posts were made in the days following his passing. Josh loved Christmas and it was especially fitting now that a special celebration was held in August near his home in Ocean Pines.

An excerpt from Josh’s obituary, “Joshua was a Senior at Stephen Decatur High School and until his diagnosis worked at Baja Amusements in West Ocean City … Joshua loved to play basketball, skateboard, and play the drums with friends and the worship team. He has always had the best sense of humor and was quite literally a walking party wherever he went. He had fierce friends who loved him as much as he loved them back. Joshua in the past 18 months was truly transformed into the image of God. He was loving, thoughtful, cared about the feelings of others, was kindhearted and wanted to pitch in wherever he could to lend a hand. Most importantly, he loved Jesus and made sure everyone knew it by his actions, thoughts, and words.”

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.