Progress hard to spot at Delaware Sports Complex

 

The Delaware Sports Complex in Middletown was originally scheduled to open in spring 2016. At left, plastic containers, weeds and brush are pictured at the Delaware Sports Complex this week. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

MIDDLETOWN — The partially constructed Delaware Sports Complex looks like it did several months ago.

Weeds have grown high around PVC pipes, and at least one water pipe is badly cracked with grass and dirt shooting through the partially buried plastic.

Trash is scattered throughout the site, including, among other items, Red Bull cans, McDonalds boxes, Gatorade bottles, Utz potato chips bags. plastic water bottles, shredded snack packages and Royal Farm beverage containers.

At least some of the discarded food and drink containers have been placed in nearly full trash cans.

There’s apparently been some activity on the grass fields at some point, based on a discarded youth sports sock resting near an unfinished parking lot.

A sign touting an opening in Spring 2016 is visible from motorists traveling on Levels Road in west Middletown just a quick drive from the Maryland border.

Two signs posted at the gravel road entrance next to Charles E. Price Memorial Park re-route visitors away from the complex,stating:

“REVOLUTION TRYOUT APPO HS”

One of the signs is laying on the ground and not visible from a vehicle, the other tilted noticeably sideways.

Empty bags of seed and sand are lying among flourishing weeds, while many flexible plastic pipes are curled throughout the area above ground.

Apparently, the public-private project is stuck in neutral, or perhaps reverse if the weeds continue to grow and the garbage remains.

“We anticipated the project would be completed in December 2016 but we’re no further along than we were a year ago,” Middletown Mayor Kenneth Branner Jr. said at the end of April. “That’s disappointing to the public that would have been served by the facility.”

Sparse info available

At least one blue-colored steel pipe has been approved by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control through the Water Supply Section. A well permit number is attached to the pipe with the warning “DO NOT REMOVE THIS TAG.”

The DNREC tag directs information requests to be made in writing to 89 Kings Highway in Dover, with the well permit number included.

An emailed request for more information from DNREC on Tuesday was re-routed to Delaware Sports Complex ownership.

“(It’s) probably best to ask the principals of the new complex what permits they got from DNREC (Division of Water … and maybe others, including Watershed Stewardship for stormwater), and then check your list in with (DNREC) for confirmation,” DNREC spokesman Michael Globetti responded.

Besides what’s visible during a walk through part of the town-owned 170 acres, very little information is available about the project.

The private partners who committed to what was earlier described as a $13 million project haven’t responded to several recent requests for an update via Facebook, phone and email for an update.

Last September, then DSC co-owner Scott 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.

None of that’s going to happen.

The Town of Middletown initially agreed to provide paperwork connected to the DSC project, then declined after consultation with its attorney a few days later.

The mayor did say the sports complex has a future in some form.

“We’re working with the owners of the proposed facility to come to a resolution on an agreement and hopefully 2017 will bring more activity to the complex,” Mr. Branner said.

The mayor believes “It will get done one way or another.

“The town is totally committing to the project and it will get done one way or another.”

On Monday, the Delaware State News filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Town of Middletown seeking court papers of any sort connected to the project including potential legal actions that have been filed or will be filed.

Also sought was information on what the town has paid out or provided in support of the DSC, financially, structurally, construction or otherwise.

The next day, a request for any contract or agreement between the town and the sports complex ownership was made. Another offer for the town to comment in any way was declined again.

“Thank you for … giving us an opportunity to speak on this, but we unfortunately have to adhere to the advice of our attorney put in no comment at this time,” town spokeswoman Kristen Krenzer said.

“We will review your FOIA request for documents with our attorney to see if there’s anything that can be released under the state of Delaware Freedom of Information Act.”

A ceremonial ground breaking was held on Oct. 16, 2015, and included Mr. Branner, Middletown Councilmen Howard Young Jr, Robert McGhee and Jason Faulkner, state Rep. Quinn Johnson, and DSC owners Mr. Lobdell and Brian Ellis.

DSC’s future vision

Online at delawaresc.com, the complex is touted as “a multi-sport indoor/outdoor facility located on 170 acres of land in the heart of Middletown, Delaware.

“Located less than one mile from major roadways, hotels, restaurants and shopping, DSC will be the premier destination for tournaments, parties, conferences, leagues and training.

“The size and convenience factor of the facility location alone makes the DSC the standout facility in the Northeast. The outdoor portion of the Delaware Sports Complex will consist of 20 full size outdoor fields (14 of them lighted and 1 being a championship field with 3,500 seats), 16 baseball/softball fields, tennis courts and nearly 1,500 parking spaces.

“The indoor facilities at the site will consist of a 160,000 (square feet) and a 75,000 (square foot) building. These buildings will house a full size turf field, hard court areas, (for basketball, volleyball, etc.), a 10,000 (square foot) performance training area and many accommodations for offices, conferences and parties.”

Also, according to the site, “The DSC is the realization of a dream that provides all sports a home in Delaware by bringing athletes and families from the region, and beyond, together for the best sporting experience in the Northeast.

“A 180 acre, state-of-the art indoor and outdoor sports facility for all athletes in addition to the 190 Acres St. Annes golf course and associated clubhouse and pool nearby to the sports fields provides an overall area of over 370 acres of an athletes dream location for training and play.”

The DSC described a planned full sized concession and eating area, seating for over 1,000 people, the 18-hole golf course designed by PGA star Jim Furyk, an aquatic center inside the 75,000 square foot building and an 11,000 square foot clubhouse and banquet hall.”

According to the DSC, the 20 World Cup-size soccer fields can be used for utilized for lacrosse, hockey, soccer, football, and other sports.

According to Mr. Lobdell last September, five DSC field sites had been staked out and were ready for sodding. He said organizers were discussing with the town to provide additional field space for scheduled fall events.

Also, Mr. Lobdell said, “This is an economic driver and the town fully supports the project.

“Calls are coming in from as far away as Kentucky, I think, asking for hotel information.”

The Middletown-based Delaware Revolution youth sports program, which Mr. Lobdell operates along with Brian Ellis and Brian Laity, held practices and games at the DSC in September.

This week, the DSC website advertised 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 touting sponsorship opportunities was also online.

DSC description

Online at delawaresc.com, the Delaware Sports Complex in Middletown is touted as “a multi-sport indoor/outdoor facility located on 170 acres of land in the heart of Middletown, Delaware.

“Located less than one mile from major roadways, hotels, restaurants and shopping, DSC will be the premier destination for tournaments, parties, conferences, leagues and training.

“The size and convenience factor of the facility location alone makes the DSC the standout facility in the Northeast. The outdoor portion of the Delaware Sports Complex will consist of 20 full size outdoor fields (14 of them lighted and 1 being a championship field with 3,500 seats), 16 baseball/softball fields, tennis courts and nearly 1,500 parking spaces.

“The indoor facilities at the site will consist of a 160,000 (square feet) and a 75,000 (square foot) building. These buildings will house a full size turf field, hard court areas, (for basketball, volleyball, etc.), a 10,000 (square foot) performance training area and many accommodations for offices, conferences and parties.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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