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Ocean City takes lead on sports complex planning, and here's what could happen next

By Olivia Minzola, Salisbury Daily Times,


The town of Ocean City is breathing life back into a highly debated Worcester County sports complex project.

Ocean City council members recently discussed their interest in taking the reins on the development of the sports complex, as well as appointing a special task force to pursue plans.

Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan will lead the task force, or blue-ribbon committee, mentioned City Manager Terry McGean at the May 30 work session, when council members voted unanimously in favor of taking the lead on the project.

The purpose of the task force will be to evaluate the scope of the project, location of the indoor and outdoor facility, and funding sources.

Original proposed site was near Stephen Decatur High

The plan for the 95.521 acres of property, originally slated to be located west of Stephen Decatur High School on Route 50 in Berlin, is to build a multipurpose, indoor-outdoor athletic complex with eight to 10 tournament quality outdoor athletic fields, a 125,000-square-foot indoor facility, restrooms, parking and concession stands.

The site is intended to be used for both recreation and travel sports, as well as county clinics and leagues. Additional park amenities would include walking trails, ponds and a playground.

Now, Ocean City is looking at possible locations outside of the proposed site next to Stephen Decatur Middle and High Schools. The final location will remain in close proximity, as short as a 15-to-20-minute drive, to the resort town.

RELATED: How much would Worcester County athletic complex cost? Study raises stakes with estimate

Voters make their voice heard on sports complex issue

The Worcester County Commissioners voted 4-3 in favor of the purchase of land for $7.1 million to construct the sports complex on April 19, 2022. Since then, the project has been met with equal parts support and criticism from townspeople and public officials.

Voters narrowly rejected bond issuance for design and construction costs of a Worcester County Sports Complex in November 2022, removing that as a possible source of funding. Voting for were 11,063, or 48.47%, with 11,760, or 51.53%, voting against, as previously reported by Delmarva Now .

RELATED: Worcester voters reject controversial sports complex funding

As part of the 2022 election, Worcester County held a referendum on property acquisition for the sports complex. Although the referendum to approve the purchase failed county wide, it later passed in the Ocean City District.

According to a Phase 2 feasibility study conducted by the Maryland Stadium Authority Board of Directors, the proposed sports complex is projected to add between 830 and 980 net new jobs to the local economy. Additionally, the study predicted between 54 to 64 tournaments would be held at the sports complex over the course of one year, with a total number of attendees ranging from 423,325 to 501,525 on a yearly basis.

The estimated cost for construction of the full complex is $153,525,000, excluding land acquisition. Based on the breakdown for tax revenue generated by the project, the case can be made that the state could fund up to 80% of the cost.

Worcester County ceased efforts related to the development of the complex.

Olivia Minzola covers communities on the Lower Shore. Contact her with tips and story ideas at .

This article originally appeared on Salisbury Daily Times: Ocean City takes lead on sports complex planning, and here's what could happen next

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