Rain can’t dampen DE Turf celebration

FREDERICA — Soccer, field hockey and football players from all over the East Coast have already been in action on the 12 athletic fields that comprise the DE Turf Sports Complex for nearly a month.

In fact, it’s been so busy that officials at the facility haven’t had time to celebrate a proper opening.

DE Turf took care of that unfinished business on a rainy Saturday morning as Bill Strickland, chairman of DE Turf’s board of directors, and Executive Director Chris Giacomucci welcomed dignitaries from around the state for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

In his welcoming remarks, Mr. Strickland noted that the Eastern Regional Soccer League had moved many of its tournament games from New Castle’s Kirkwood Soccer Complex’s grass fields to DE Turf on Saturday due to the steady rain showers.

“It’s a beautiful day,” Mr. Strickland said. “Why is a nor’easter in May a beautiful day? Well, if you have a business model that is built on 12 artificial surfaces and a complex to the north calls your executive director on Wednesday and says, ‘We need to bring our tournament to you because we are being rained out, can we FedEx a check to you today?’

“That, my friend, is validation.”

DE Turf Executive Director Chris Giacomucci prepares to cut the ribbon alongside several state and local dignitaries on Saturday morning. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

Perfect backdrop for celebration

Cheers and applause from various soccer contests being played Saturday served as the perfect backdrop for the ribbon-cutting event at the $24 million DE Turf complex, located at 4000 Bay Road, just southeast of Frederica.

“This complex gives kids a place to run, be active and stay healthy,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. “I have made exercising a core part of my life. It gives me the energy to work for Delaware every day in Washington.

“So, I love seeing young athletes from Delaware and beyond making physical activity important in their lives.”

Mr. Giacomucci pointed out that the first major showcase for the DE Turf complex – College Connections – turned out to be a huge success that left many attendees raving after it brought 84 field hockey teams, and more than 4,000 visitors, to the facility over Easter weekend (April 15-16).

“We’re proud to be able to bring people here to share what makes the state great,” Mr. Giacomucci said. “We also know this is a valuable resource for the local community, where local teams/clubs can play.”

Four receive plaques for efforts

Mr. Strickland presented plaques at the ribbon-cutting ceremony to four individuals who were instrumental in making DE Turf a reality. He also provided a small description of what made each person so vital to the project.

State Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover, whom Mr. Strickland called “good government” was honored with a plaque, as was Delaware Department of Transportation Secretary Jennifer Cohan, called “can-do” in recognition of her attitude.

Mr. Strickland also awarded Kent County Levy Court Commissioner Eric Buckson, described as one who “always sees the big picture” and Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long “representing the state of Delaware” with plaques of appreciation.

“Players, coaches and families are traveling from all over the East Coast to play at DE Turf,” said Lt. Gov. Hall-Long. “While they’re here, they have a significant, positive impact on Delaware – eating at restaurants, staying at hotels, taking advantage of tac-free shopping, and so much more.”

A feasibility study estimated that DE Turf would have an impact of $18 million annually. That estimate was based on 10 events a year. So far, the facility has booked around 20 events for its first year.

“We saw a need for a sports tourism destination in Delaware,” Mr. Strickland said. “That’s exactly what we now have. It’s an asset and economic driver not just for central Delaware, but for the entire state.”

Continuing growth

Mrs. Cohan announced Saturday that a section of DE Turf’s north parking lot will now be part of DelDOT’s Park and Ride system.

“We’ve partnered to ensure drivers have safe, easy access to the fields on tournament weekends,” she said. “And travel will be even smoother when the South Frederica Overpass is complete next year.”

Mr. Strickland also announced that First State Orthopedics and ATI Physical Therapy will be opening new offices at the complex at the site next to the fields and new overpass, adding more of a “campus-feel” to DE Turf.

“It’s so rewarding to see the growth the complex is already spurring,” Sen. Bushweller said. “We knew that would be the case from the beginning, which made this a project my colleagues on both sides of the aisle at Legislative Hall could support.”

Mr. Buckson, who coaches wrestling and baseball in addition to his Levy Court duties, believes the facility will also be a boon to local athletes, as well as those families who travel.

“We’re looking forward to see how this area will grow even more from here,” Mr. Buckson said. “And as a teacher, coach and parent, I look forward to seeing how much fun local kids will have at DE Turf.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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