Sign touting opening of Delaware Sports Complex — in spring 2016 — removed


Within the past few days, the Town of Middletown removed a sign touting the opening of the Delaware Sports Complex in spring 2016. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

MIDDLETOWN — The missing sign mystery was solved Wednesday, but many questions remain about the unfinished Delaware Sports Complex.

Contacted by the Delaware State News, the Town of Middletown said it recently removed a billboard next to the partially completed facility touting an opening in spring 2016.

The sign was visible to motorists passing by on Levels Road for more than a year. It eventually became a reminder that the $13 million project’s projected completion was long overdue.

Town officials removed the sign due to repeated questioning by the public and the uncertainty caused by the delayed debut, a spokesperson said.

The sign billing the proposed multi-playing field complex as “The Future of Sports in Delaware — was thus removed.

The sign belongs to DSC ownership and is stored in a municipal shed, the town said. Its future placement, if at all, is up to the DSC.

Left unanswered was if Town of Middletown, Van Cleef Engineering Associates and/or Delaware Sports Complex logos would remain on the new sign if it is posted.

A nearby Nichols Excavation sign remained untouched, and attempts to reach the Newark-based company were unsuccessful. Van Cleef Engineering Associates, headquartered in Thorofare, New Jersey, also could not be reached.

Last week, the town declined to provide any paperwork, contract or funding information regarding the project or potential court actions, and the State News filed a Freedom of Information Act request in response.

The town owns the 170 acres of land near Del. 301 near the Delaware-Maryland border and has an undisclosed agreement with DSC ownership regarding its use and upkeep. Tall weeds, and wild grasses, some hip high and many reaching above the knee, are scattered throughout the area and growing through unused pipes and other materials.

Trash is strewn throughout the site, including empty seed and sand bags, food wrappers, beverage bottles and more. One soggy area has standing water mostly hidden by the flourishing weeds.

Following up on several offers last week, the State News again offered the town to comment in any way on Wednesday. The town declined and no further information was made available.

Several messages seeking an updated comment or a statement from DSC ownership have gone unanswered.

Information on the Delaware Department of Natural Resources involvement was not made immediately available, and a spokesman re-routed questioning to DSC ownership last week. At least one well was installed by DNREC during early construction.

On Wednesday, DNREC spokesman Michael Globetti directed any potential FOIA request regarding permits to be filed with the Division of Water and Division of Watershed Stewardship.

Some path forward

Regarding the delayed construction, Middletown Mayor Kenneth Branner recently said the town was working with DSC ownership to plot a path forward.

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

There’s still hope for some sort of a sports complex in the future, with the construction to be determined.

“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.

“ … 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.”

Mr. Branner took part in a facility groundbreaking on Oct. 16, 2015, joined by Middletown Councilmen Howard Young Jr, Robert Mc-Ghee and Jason Faulkner, state Rep. Quinn Johnson, and DSC owners Scott Lobdell and Brian Ellis.

Last September, Mr. Lobdell said 12 to 15 playing fields were slated to be open by this spring, and 8 to 10 soccer and lacrosse events were scheduled for May.

Last week, the DSC website at 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 describing sponsorship opportunities was also online.

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