County Ends Sports Complex For Now

County Ends Sports Complex For Now

It only took a matter of hours for the new slate of Worcester County Commissioners to effectively squash a sports complex. Once the election came and went, it was clear the sports complex, as proposed, would be abandoned, but it was mildly surprising it happened at the group’s first meeting.

Calling it “premature,” Commissioner Joe Mitrecic asked his colleagues to at least allow the Maryland Stadium Authority to present its study update and funding proposal before shutting down the process. Mitrecic said it would have been a reasonable course in this case to listen to the state before voting to end it altogether, but the commissioners now in power sent a clear message Tuesday. The commissioners for ending the sports complex process largely oppose the effort because it involves public funding.

We believe the only way a sports complex will ever be built in Worcester County is with some sort of public-private partnership, which will likely require some government funding and/or financing. This set of commissioners is opposed to any county fiscal involvement.

While we are not opposed to public funds being used in the name of economic development, our biggest problem with the most recent sports complex effort was two-fold – the site and the process.

The problematic location next to the high school is just too much to overlook. Officials could not have selected a worst site in our opinion because of all the unknowns. The Town of Berlin, which will be impacted the most by the project, was never approached because county officials said all along there was nothing to discuss yet.

The lack of a process along the way and the absence of a private operator identified to manage it also hurt the effort. Reports of the MSA funding 80% with the Town of Ocean City and a private property potentially picking up the rest of the development costs only surfaced this week. These sorts of funding discussions should have been held and made public already.

A sports complex will never happen here without some sort of county government involvement. For instance, DE Turf is owned and operated by the Kent County Regional Sports Complex Corporation, a non-profit governed by a volunteer board. The county leases the 84 acres of land for $1 a year for 60 years with the main motivation behind the deal being economic development. This sweetheart deal and some public service provided to the grounds is largely the extent of the county’s involvement. but the nature of the bargain makes it a partner in the complex.

This current group of commissioners would oppose any public funds or involvement like the DE Turf deal being spent on this effort. This discussion is over, for at least the next four years.

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.