Delaware Sports Complex files for bankruptcy

The Delaware Sports Complex in Middletown was originally scheduled to open in spring 2016. The sign was removed earlier this month. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

WILMINGTON — Listing nearly $1.6 million in debt to 13 creditors, the Delaware Sports Complex LLC filed for bankruptcy in federal court on Tuesday.

The proposed indoor-outdoor sports complex in Middletown was billed as a $13 million facility on a 319-acre tract of land leased from the Town of Middletown.

According to the filing, the DSC owes the Town of Middletown $195,000. On Wednesday, the town said it had installed infrastructure to provide irrigation to the field, including pipes for wastewater.

Middletown Mayor Kenneth Branner learned of the bankruptcy filing on Wednesday morning and described his first reaction as “total shock, then disappointment that it got to this point.

“We don’t know what to do, we don’t know what our next steps are. We’ve got a bankruptcy lawyer looking into it.”

For 18 months, according to Mr. Branner, town officials met with DSC representatives at weekly meetings on Thursday mornings. Six fields were completed before progress came to a standstill, the mayor said.

“We were led to believe they had the money they needed,” Mr. Branner said. “They told us they were scheduling tournaments and kept saying they could do it.”

About six months ago, according to Mr. Branner, reports of unpaid bills to DSC started arriving at town hall.

“That’s when we knew something was askew,” he said.

Court filings indicated a 98-year lease at $1 per year was part of the arrangement with DSC. The tract is located at 955 Levels Road near U.S. 301 and the Maryland-Delaware border west of town.

Nichols Nursery of Newark is owed $811,337, according to papers, while Van Cleef Engineers of Hillsborough, New Jersey has a claim for $205,483. Attempts to reach both companies earlier this month for an update were unsuccessful.

Original owners Brian Ellis of Middletown and Scott Lobdell of Townsend listed promissory note debts of $71,900 and $30,778, respectively. Mr. Lobdell’s Summit Bridge Properties is owed $54,995, the filing listed.

Multiple attempts to contact DSC ownership several weeks ago for an update on the project went unreturned. Last September, Mr. Lobdell said 12 to 15 fields were slated to be open by this spring, and 8 to 10 soccer and lacrosse events were scheduled for May.

The Town of Middletown filed an eviction claim against the DSC at Justice of the Peace Court 9 in Middletown on March 17.

“We said they weren’t living up to the terms of the agreement we had with them,” Mr. Branner said.

Nichols Nursery entered a civil complaint at Delaware Superior Court in Wilmington.

While some grass fields were completed and a parking lot partially finished, little if any construction progress has been made for over a year. A recent trip to the site showed trash and high weeds throughout the area, along with cracked and unused pipes, bags of seed and other items.

The bankruptcy was filed as a Chapter 11 and classified as a small business debt. The DSC estimates “Funds will be available for distribution to unsecured creditors.”

The DSC estimated assets between $1 million and $10 million and debts of the same.

Manager Daniel Watson of Easton, Maryland, signed the action as the authorized representative of the DSC and was named as the current equity holder since March 1. In papers, he claimed “to the best of his knowledge” the DSC’s gross revenues during 2016 were approximately $60,000.

Other Middletown-based entities owed money include MDR Golf of Middletown ($105,550 for services) and the Delaware Revolution Soccer Club ($36,000 for equipment). Matt Richter is listed as MDR’s creditor, with Blaine Boyles representing the Revolution.

Also owed for services are Saul Ewing LLP of Wilmington ($19,777, James Taylor), B&B High Tech Solutions of West Berlin, New Jersey ($8,430, Jeff Evans), Landscape Architectural Services of Dover ($7,000, Matt Spong) and Northern Tier Landscaping of Wilmington ($3,000 Matt Laudemean).

A $13,000 loan from Liborio Watergate LLC and Lou Ramunno is also due.

The DSC reported $3,400,000 in real property assets and $29,126 in personal property. A BB&T checking account has $4,276 and a WSFS Bank has $0.

Also listed is a $15,000 retainer to Hiller Law LLC of Wilmington, which filed the bankruptcy petition.

The DSC is keeping lacrosse goals and other equipment at Middletown Storage, according to documents.

Recently the DSC website promoted signups for three upcoming first annual soccer and field hockey tournaments on Aug. 3, Aug. 26-27 and Sept. 2-3, along with the sixth annual Black Friday 3-v-3 Tournament on Nov. 26-27. An icon describing sponsorship opportunities was also online.

Mr. Branner said the town still believes in the concept of a sports complex on Levels Road, but any forward movement is now suspended in limbo.

“We believe there will be interest when the land becomes available for further development,” he said.

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