Plans unveiled for multi-field sports complex in Georgetown

GEORGETOWN — Donated land just north of the CHEER Community Center on Sand Hill Road is earmarked for a multi-field sports complex.

Sussex Sports Center is a public/private venture that Joe Schell said he hopes will plant seeds for what will become a county-based parks and recreation initiative.

“In this county, we don’t have a parks and rec department. The other two counties do. That is a shortfall and the way our county is growing we have got to respond to the need that is in this community,” said Mr. Schell. “The concept is if Sussex County Council supports us at the level which they indicated they will, we will then give this to Sussex County, hopefully as the first park and rec effort of the Sussex County Council.”

Plans, unveiled by Mr. Schell Wednesday at the Greater Georgetown Chamber of Commerce Economic Development luncheon, include eight Bermuda grass fields that would accommodate soccer, field hockey and lacrosse.

Fields would be utilized for tournaments, like baseball tournaments hosted by Sports at the Beach a few miles down U.S.. 9, as well as club and open play.

Joe Schell shares information on the proposed multi-field sports complex on Sand Hill Road in Georgetown. (Delaware State News)

“We have Sports at the Beach. We don’t need any more baseball fields. That is a great facility for us in this county,” said Mr. Schell. “This is a great facility for the other sports: field hockey, soccer and lacrosse.”

Projected cost is $3.75 million. Funding will be sought from various sources and levels of government, from town to federal, along with business and private donors as well as a public campaign.

“We are in the town of Georgetown. We will be looking to them to support financially part of what we are doing here. We have already had great feedback from the Sussex County Council. They are willing to be a partner with us at a very high level. They haven’t approved it yet but they are certainly very positive so far in all of our conversations,” said Mr. Schell.

Georgetown Mayor Bill West and Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson are on the organizing committee for the project, Mr. Schell noted.

Georgetown Town Manager Gene Dvornik said, “I think it’s going to be a huge economic boom, especially for the downtown. Obviously, as people come for tournaments they are going need places to eat, places to shop. It dovetails quite nicely with Sports at the Beach and the downtown development district.”

An estimated $2 million for the project “will come from myself and a whole bunch of other people like you all in the community that want to see this come and want to contribute to it,” said Mr. Schell, adding that a foundation will be created to fundraise and own the facility and operate it for an initial time.

With anticipated approval from the town of Georgetown, expectation is the fields will be ready for play in late September/October 2018, Mr. Schell said.
The project will encompass between 56 to 70 acres. Mr. Schell, whose family and Schell Brothers business have made numerous donations to the Sussex County community and schools, is donating the land.

Field work and storm-water construction will require about 75 employees. That process will take about eight months.

“Then we’ll let the grass grow in. That is going to take all of next summer. These fields will first be playable … about 15 months from now,” said Mr. Schell.

Once in operation, only a couple part-time employees will be needed, for tournament scheduling and maintenance, with volunteers sought from athletic groups, officials said.

Future plans include an approximate 3-mile walking/running trail and pickleball courts for a sport quite popular with the older generation. The trail will begin near U.S. 9 and meander through and around the field complex.

Greater Georgetown Chamber member Ray Hopkins noted CHEER Inc.’s plans for the Life Care Village senior living development on the nearby CHEER property.

“I see your proposal plus what’s happening at CHEER as a terrific compliment to each other. It provides activity, walking paths and I think this is nothing but a positive thing,” Mr. Hopkins said.

Mr. Schell said efforts will be made to work with Sports at the Beach and tournament scheduling.

“We will hopefully be coordinating with them on when we host tournaments as compared to when they host tournaments so we don’t create bottlenecks. Our hope is that we will attract tournaments here on these fields during the shoulder months, late spring, early fall and during the summertime,” said Mr. Schell.

Parking plans are to accommodate 350 cars in a paved parking area with grassy areas for overflow parking.

Mr. Schell noted the intersection of U.S. 9, Airport Road and Sandhill Road is already busy with east/west traffic as well as proximity to the CHEER Community Center and Sussex Academy and the Delaware Coastal Airport.

“We’re working with DelDOT on this intersection to get it a little bit more user-friendly,” said Mr. Schell.

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