Shine up the shovels, more progress on way

DOVER — Break out the golden shovels.

DelDOT is about to celebrate the start of another Del. 1 overpass on Friday.

Gov. Jack Markell and DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan will lead a long line of shovelers turning the first piles of dirt for the long-awaited South Frederica interchange.

The project was initiated in 2007.

The location is Del. 1 at the Milford Neck and Tub Mill Pond intersection by Meding’s Seafood restaurant.

On the east side of the highway is the Kent County wastewater treatment plant where there is significant truck traffic.

Once complete, the overpass will ease access into the new Kent County Regional Sports Complex.

“When people ask me about it, I always tell them I’m ecstatic, but to be mindful that it’s not being done for the sports complex,” said Bill Strickland, who led the Greater Kent Committee effort to build the complex.

“It was planned long before the sports complex but there is no question that it will be a real asset for the complex in terms of the ease of people getting in and out of the complex.”

The Greater Kent Committee got behind the idea of the complex in 2009. The idea was that it could bring new jobs to the area through sports tourism.

The South Frederica project is expected to take two years to complete.

Back in the fall of 2013, DelDOT lowered South Frederica on its priority list just before it was to go out to bid and created great angst in Kent County about the impact it might have on the complex. With a boost in Transportation Trust Funds last year, DelDOT is moving forward with several projects in Kent County.

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Mr. Strickland said they are finalizing permitting and completing preliminary site work at the sports complex — now called DE Turf.

There has been heavy equipment on the 85-acre property, creating a construction roadway, for the past few weeks.

Mr. Strickland said new Turf director Rob Smith has been pitching the Kent County venue around the region, lining up tournaments and interest. The reaction has been good.

“It validates what we’ve thought about the model — artificial surface, lights, location,” said Mr. Strickland.

The Turf will have 12 synthetic turf fields with sports lighting and scoreboards. At its center is a 1,500-seat championship stadium.

“It’s a testament, frankly, to the dedication and persistence to a lot of people in Kent County to see these things through,” said Mr. Strickland.

The opening is now about a year away.

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In recent travels, quite a few people have mentioned the complex to this editor and wondered if they’ll have the chance to experience it.

It’s incredible to hear over and over again how many local families regularly travel to Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and elsewhere for field hockey, soccer and lacrosse tournaments,

“This means that four or five weekends out of the year, they’ll be able to stay at home,” Mr. Strickland said. “The facility they’ll have in their own backyard will be as nice, if not better, than anyplace they travel.”

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North of Frederica, the Little Heaven/Thompsonville projects along Del. 1 are massive efforts already in progress.

Elsewhere in Kent, the West Dover Connector is taking shape.

The center of spring celebrations will be where the connector crosses New Burton Road.

We reported recently that the Greater Dover Boys and Girls Club will hold a big-ribbon cutting event on June 1.

Word from Kent County Levy Court President Brooks Banta is that the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Kent County Recreation Center will be May 14.

The two buildings are side-by-side. It is Kent County’s first recreation center.

“When I first came on the Levy Court 19 years, 2 months and 11 days ago, Terry Pepper was the president and we were talking about it then,” said Mr. Banta.

“It takes time, it takes organization, it takes money, it takes a lot of things and everybody has to be in agreement,” said Mr. Banta. “There’s no disagreement on this. Everybody’s full speed ahead, just like they are with the sports complex.”

Reach editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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