DE Turf toasts first kick, salutes sponsor M&T Bank, gets set for big weekend

FREDERICA — Leslie Fazio scooped up her first ceremonial save with ease, then marveled at the scene around her.

The Delaware State University sophomore soccer goalkeeper, a Lewes native, felt like everyone else did about the new DE Turf Sports Complex on a warm Monday morning.

“I’m from Delaware so this really hits home,” Ms. Fazio, a Sussex Tech graduate, said under sunny skies at the multipurpose facility that’s among the biggest on the East Coast.

“It’s exciting to know that so many girls I know will be able to play on this in the future. It’s beautiful here. It’s the nicest field I’ve been on.”

Elected officials and DE Turf backers gathered at the complex next to Del. 1 to recognized M&T Bank for signing a three-year sponsorship agreement in its latest support of local community interests.

Nick Lambrow, M&T Bank Delaware Regional President, Chris Giacomucci, Executive DE Turf’s Director, and Bill Strickland, President DE Turf’s Board of Directors, unveil M&T Bank’s name on Field 2 officially naming the field M&T Bank Field. (Special to the Delaware State News/Doug Curran)

To highlight the commitment, M&T Bank Delaware Regional President Nick Lambrow took off his shoes and kicked a soccer ball toward DSU’s goalkeeper as everyone gathered to watch.

M&T Bank provided the crucial $20.7 million tax-free bond in June 2016 that pushed DE Turf from being a vision to construction-ready project.

Leslie Fazio, DSU women’s soccer goal keeper, blocks a ceremonious kick by Nick Lambrow, M&T Bank Delaware Regional President.

DE Turf organizers were fortunate to time financing with historically low interest rates over 30-year terms.

“The options M&T offered us were more attractive than any other financing option available to us and their investment in our facility proved their recognition of the integrity of this project,” DE Turf Board of Directors President Bill Strickland said.

Distinguished guests wait for the unveiling of the M&T Bank Field at DE Turf Sports Complex.

“M&T listened to our needs and developed a financing plan that is ideal for our business model.”

M&T offered its backing “to work with our local partners to make sure Delaware is a great place to live, work, learn and invest,” Mr. Lambrow said.

Ms. Fazio and her soccer teammates got in a practice session on Monday, along with the DSU women’s lacrosse team. The university’s Approaching Storm Marching Band began its performance well before the 11 a.m. ceremony, and continued soon after speakers took their turns at the microphone.

“Coming in today I heard some live energy,” DE Turf Executive Director Chris Giacomucci said.

“That’s what the Turf is all about — energy.”

The DSU women’s lacrosse team warms up and practices on the newly named M&T Bank Field at DE Turf Sports Complex.

On Friday and Saturday, 84 youth field hockey teams from across the country will play before over 100 college coaches representing 60 schools at the College Connection Shooting Star Easter Tournament at DE Turf.

The U-14, U-16 and U-19 teams paid $1,200 each to play at least five games on the artificial turf, along with optional practice on Thursday.

Besides the sticks and balls, Mr. Giacomucci has particular interest in the more than 1,000 out-of-state license plates that will park at the complex this weekend.

“They need a place to stay while they’re here,” Mr. Giacomucci said, touching on the economic impact of visitors buying gas and food in central Delaware, reserving hotel space and creating a need for local jobs to meet the demand.

According to Del. Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover, local hotel space is currently sold out for more than half the upcoming summer, and “It’s just the first year!”

The DSU Drumline, “The Eye of the Storm”, performs as DE Turf Sports Complex in Frederica hosts M&T Bank and members of the Delaware State University women’s soccer and lacrosse teams to announce a partnership with M&T Bank and the naming of Field 2 to M&TBank Field. (Special to the Delaware State News/Doug Curran)

Envisioning his own grandchildren playing on DE Turf, the senator is thrilled for that “everything we projected about what we believed to be for Kent County is coming to fruition.”

Also, Sen. Bushweller noted the entire group of Kent County legislators got behind the project early to provide an infusion of funds for construction and infrastructure implementation.

More than 200 local field hockey and soccer athletes have already played at the facility, with summer camps and league programs upcoming.

The 20 events scheduled so far this year at DE Turf is a “good start,” Mr. Giacomucci said and, “that’s the most exciting thing — it’s just a start. We want to be a national brand with a community focus.”

Kent County Levy Court, which leased the land for DE Turf at a nominal rent, saluted “a lot of people who put in a lot of time and effort to make it happen,” President Brooks Banta said. He added, “Life is a risk. If you never take a risk you take a chance of never being successful.”

Mr. Strickland saluted Greater Kent Committee Executive Director Shelly Cecchett for her tenacious persistence in pushing the vision of DE Turf, comparing her figuratively to a “dog chasing the bone” regarding a “startup project that wasn’t for everyone’s appetite.”

The DSU women’s soccer team warms up and practices on the newly named M&T Bank Field at DE Turf Sports Complex.

After taking his Caesar Rodney High girls soccer team into the DE Turf on April 3 to face upstate powerhouse Padua Academy, coach Darrell Gravatt trumpeted the positive experience even following a 6-1 loss.

“The field was wide, flat and long and the girls loved it,” Mr. Gravatt said. “Everything you need to have is there and it’s done in an extremely professional manner.

Nick Lambrow, M&T Bank Delaware Regional President, ceremoniously kicks a soccer ball to Leslie Fazio, DSU women’s soccer goal keeper.

“The fans were quite close to the action from the stands and it created a wonderful atmosphere.

“We didn’t battle well, but it wasn’t because of the turf.”

Still in its infancy, Mr. Gravatt believes DE Turf “is going to help develop the next generation of Kent County athletes and provide them with wonderful opportunities that weren’t previously available in their home area.”

DE Turf traffic alerts

The Delaware Department of Transportation will close crossovers surrounding the Delaware Turf Sports Complex during upcoming events on April 14-15 and April 29-30.

Crossovers between DE Turf and the Thompsonville interchange will be closed from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Del. 1 northbound and southbound. Motorists traveling northbound will be detoured to the Exit 86/North Frederica Interchange to access Del. 1 southbound. Motorists traveling southbound will be detoured to Exit 79/Thompsonville Interchange to access Del. 1 northbound.

The three crossovers to the north, between the Sports Complex and the North Frederica interchange, will be closed from noon until 6 p.m. to safely facilitate traffic exiting the Sports Complex. Northbound traffic destined for points south will be detoured to Exit 86/North Frederica interchange where they can then access Del. 1 southbound. Southbound Del. 1 traffic wishing to utilize one of the three closed crossovers north of the venue are encouraged to use Exit 79/Thompsonville Interchange. However, all crossovers from Tub Mill Pond Road/Milford Neck Road, and south should be open by noon.

Each month, DelDOT will alert motorists in advance of the crossover closures.

DelDOT said in an effort to further reduce the impact to residents and businesses, there will be a left-turn only on Del. 1 northbound at the Tub Mill Pond Road intersection to allow motorists to access Del. 1 southbound and Tub Mill Pond Road to the west.

Further information of upcoming events at the Delaware Sports Complex is available online at delawaresports.org/venues/de-turf-sports-complex.

Message boards will be displayed to notify motorists of the upcoming traffic patterns.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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