Right now, the Kent County Sports Complex is an empty field. But soon this 100-acre parcel off Del. 1 in Frederica will be transformed into a world-class facility for youth soccer.
After three years of discussion and debate, the ball is ready to roll on the Kent County Sports Complex. Officials say the state won’t have to wait long to feel the $18 million kick the project will deliver to the economy. The facility, which is expected to host 10 major soccer tournaments a year as well as field hockey and lacrosse, is set to open sometime in 2014.
Alan Levin, director of the Delaware Office of Economic Development, says the project is an important one, the impact of which will be felt well beyond Kent County.
“Delaware is a small state, only 113 miles long,” Levin says. “What happens in the center of the state mushrooms through the rest of the state
And supporters of the complex, which will include an indoor facility and 15 fields, say it will indeed act as an engine for growth for central Delaware. According to demographic research done by the Greater Dover Committee, the size of the future sports complex will allow it to compete not only with sports tournaments in the local and regional market, but the entire Mid-Atlantic market, which includes a 120-minute radius and 10 million people. That translates into a lot of tourism dollars flowing into Delaware. “This is a great magnet,” says Levin. “People will shop at Christiana Mall and down at the outlets,” he says. “The beaches will do well. The farmers will do well because there will be more produce and chicken being sold.”
Moreover, experts expect the economic windfall will be virtually recession-proof. “Sports is a large demand-driver for people,” says Linda Parkowski, director of the Delaware Tourism Office. “Everybody still travels so their kids can play sports.”
Parkowski notes that large sports tournaments bring a wealth of economic benefits. “Tournaments are big business,” she says. “They fill hotels, they fill the restaurants, people get gas, they buy groceries. So there’s a lot of spinoff that happens from just one tournament.”
Backers of the project expect the facility will host other events as well. Shelly Cecchett, executive director of the Greater Dover Committee, says the Battle of the Bands has expressed interest in staging an event at the facility.
“We do not have our eyes closed to anything,” she says. “We want this to be multi-functional—not just sports.”
Levin notes that the labor market stands to benefit as well. He cited a University of Delaware study that found that 2,000 part-time jobs would be created during the tournaments and camps at the complex. In addition, 180 construction jobs would be created as the facility is built.
“That’s a big deal,” he says. “That’s a nice shot in the arm for southern Kent County.”
The Central Delaware Soccer Association will anchor the complex and play its home games there. Vice president and director of coaching Chad Reed says the complex will improve the quality of local athletes because they will be exposed to more out-of-state competition.
“We have to travel for hours to get to higher competition,” he says. “But to be able to play in at least two or three tournaments at home is awesome.”
Cecchett says one of the most amazing aspects of the project was the way the key players partnered to make it a reality. “You don’t always see that with a project, so when you do it’s exciting,” she says. “It’s fun to work on a project when so many people want to see it happen.”