Inaugural DE Turf event sees packed parking lots, fields

FREDERICA — Although Friday morning was overcast, early afternoon poured sunlight on the thousands of people attending Delaware Turf Sports Complex’s first big event.

The 84-team sports showcase is the facility’s first large-scale event following a soft opening in the past month.

The girl’s field hockey competition that started Friday and continues today is known as the Shooting Star Easter Tournament. It’s hosted by College Connection, one of the first major field hockey camps in the country, according to its website.

“College Connection is a fantastic partner,” said DE Turf’s executive director Chris Giacomucci. “They are one of the best in the industry and they’re acting as the tournament’s director. We rented the complex to them — they operate it and we just manage the property during the event.”

Mr. Giacomucci estimated that approximately 4,000 visitors from 18 states would drop in over the weekend.

Casey Keleman of the Lady Riders U14 hits past a H2O player during field hockey action on the first day at De Turf on Friday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“Both our parking lots are full — that’s 930 paved parking spaces,” he said. “With our overflow parking lots we’re probably at about 1,500 cars right now.”

The new facility met with U14 league player Emma Westbrook’s approval. Emma plays for Delaware Shore Field Hockey, a club based in Lewes.

Soccer fields filled with players and parking lots overflowing with cars during Saturday’s tournament at DE Turf Sports Complex. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

“The new fields are awesome,” she said after playing her first of two games on Friday, “I’ve played on turf fields before like the one at my school, but these feel much nicer because they tighter and more together so the ball just slides really smoothly.”

Volunteer Denise Westbrook works as the Field Marshall Cordinator for the Delaware Shore Lighthouse team during the first day at De Turf on Friday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Emma’s coach, Sydney Ostroski, said the team loves the facility.

“The turf is really nice, and it’s convenient for me and my players because we live so close to it,” she said. “They have a great facility and equipment here, the girls couldn’t stop talking about how much they liked the wind shield they got to sit in when they were on the bench.”

Calling on volunteers

An army of volunteers were called upon to help staff the event. Emma’s mom, Denise Westbrook, stepped up to act as the field marshal coordinator at the request of the Delaware Shore Field Hockey Club’s head coach. In the span of two weeks, she had 200 volunteer time slots to fill.

Delaware Shore Lighthouse coach Sydney Ostroski and Emma Duffield yell out to players during their U14 field hockey game against Freedom game on the first day at De Turf on Friday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“We probably have about 80 volunteers taking up multiple time slots, but we are fully staffed,” she said. “A lot of them are parents of player or older players themselves. They’re a great group of people.”

As field marshals their job is to monitor the scoreboards to ensure that points are tallied correctly and report them regularly so they can be logged.

“There’s a tournament app being used where all the points are uploaded so you can see who is playing on what field and what the scores and standings are at any time,” said Ms. Westbrook.

By rallying together volunteers to help run the tournament, she said her club saved itself about $2,000 in entry and participation fees.

With another daughter in addition to Emma playing in the tournament, Ms. Westbrook was excited about having this type of event in her “own backyard” for a change.

“We didn’t have to travel to Pennsylvania or Virginia or wherever this time,” she said.

Often spending a significant amount of money to participate in tournaments elsewhere, Ms. Westbrook believes that DE Turf will likely be a boon for the local economy and local athletes.

“When we travel, we are populating the local restaurants, hotels and area businesses,” she said. “By having it here, we’re saving money while bringing more people in. Imagine if they put a Wawa and a hotel across the street. It’s a win-win for the area.”

To staff the parking lot, Mr. Giacomucci called on local football teams.

“We had the Lake Forest High School football team in the morning and Milford High School football team in the afternoon to come over and help us with parking patrol,” he said. “We’ll be donating to their booster programs as a way of saying thanks and giving back to the community.”

Mr. Giacomucci also lavished praise on the state police, DelDOT and the Frederica Fire Department for all coordinating to help make the event possible.

“Safety is the number one priority,” he said. “To have a fire truck and ambulance on site is great. The level of participation really shows that the community cares about this. I think everyone hit it out of the park for this first event.”

Traffic impact

To accommodate the influx of traffic the event would invariably attract, DelDOT made several adjustments on Del. 1 during peak hours and will do so again today.

The roadway between south of Dover through Frederica and Milford is designed to handle 3,600 vehicles an hour smoothly, barring an accident or weather issues, said DelDOT officials.

To minimize risk, DelDOT temporarily eliminated northbound and southbound crossover turn areas during high traffic in connection with DE Turf arrivals.

Northbound motorists were guided to the Exit 86/North Frederica Interchange to enter Del. 1 southbound, DelDOT said. Southbound motorists were being channeled to Exit 79/Thompsonville Interchange to access Del. 1 northbound.

“This is a good, safe plan,” said Michael Rivera, DelDOT’s special events manager for the Traffic Section, on Thursday.

Months of planning and meetings with DE Turf officials and the Delaware State Police were enhanced by town hall style meetings DelDOT conducted to answer local residents’ concerns about event-related heavier traffic patterns.

“It is our intent to minimize the impact of (roadway adjustments) to local residents and businesses,” Mr. Rivera said.

Mr. Rivera applauded the efforts of DE Turf administrators and the Delaware State Police in coming together to address traffic concerns.

To assist travelers, DelDOT has placed extra message boards throughout the area with traffic directions. The crossover areas are closed with cones that can be moved if needed by first responders and emergency personnel.

As of midday Friday the state police reported smooth operations.

“As of now, there are no reported traffic issues in the area,” said Sgt. Richard Bratz. “The Delaware State Police are assisting with the safety of motorists in the area. Motorists may experience delays and are advised to use alternate routes if possible. DSP is working with DelDOT who will alert motorists in advance of the crossover closures.”

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

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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