The Greater Dover Committee’s pitch to create a public corporation that would run the proposed , $17.7 million Kent County Sports Complex has the tentative support of Kent County Levy Court.
The Greater Dover Committee’s pitch to create a public corporation that would run the proposed, $17.7 million Kent County Sports Complex has the tentative support of Kent County Levy Court.
But a few of the Levy Court commissioners said they wanted to know some more details about how exactly this quasi, public-private partnership would work before they go all in during the Administrative Committee meeting held Tuesday night at the Kent County Administrative Complex.
Greater Dover Committee member John W. Paradee, an attorney with Prickett, Jones & Elliott’s Dover office, asked Levy Court for a formal letter of endorsement for the creation of a Kent County Sports Complex corporation similar to the Delaware Stadium Corporation that runs Frawley Stadium in Wilmington. Paradee had represented that entity during its creation.
Paradee drafted a proposed certificate of incorporation and bylaws and Greater Dover Committee Executive Director Shelly Lecchett, Greater Dover Committee First Vice President Bill Strickland and engineer Greg Moore of Becker Morgan presented that draft to Levy Court Tuesday night.
The Greater Dover Committee believes the proposed sports complex will be the “economic engine for central Delaware,” similar to what Frawley Stadium has done for Wilmington’s Riverfront upstate. The idea for the sports complex was first presented to Levy Court in 2009 by the Delaware Tourism Office.
The Delaware Stadium Corp. is a public incorporation that owns the real estate that is part of the Riverfront in Wilmington as well as Frawley Stadium, which sits on that land. It leases the stadium to the Wilmington Blue Rocks, a single A Minor League baseball club affiliated with the Kansas City Royals, Delaware Stadium Corporation Board of Directors member Bill Winters told Levy Court. The Blue Rocks pay rent to the Delaware Stadium Corp.The Kent County Sports Complex building concept
The 85-acre athletic field complex would be built near Frederica on the northeast corner of Bay Highway (Del. Route 1) and Milford Neck Road, near the county’s wastewater treatment plant. The estimated $17.7 million complex would be composed of 15 multi-purpose, grass and turf fields for soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and football, a lighted championship stadium with seating for up to 1,500, a 36,000-square foot indoor facility complete with a turf field as well as a concession stand and pro shop.
The Greater Dover Committee believes the same concept would work in Kent County by creating a public, non-stock, non-profit corporation, Paradee said. The public would own the corporation, meaning that if it went defunct for some reason, the assets would go back to the public in some fashion. There are no stockholders, which precludes an individual from buying 50 percent of the shares on the New York Stock Exchange, for instance, and running away with those assets if the complex fails, he said. Lastly, it’s a 501(c)3 corporation, which allows them to receive money from private individuals, who could then claim a tax exemption.
Commissioner Bradley S. Eaby (District 2), expressed concern with the construction costs, including how much Kent County would be asked to contribute. He also wondered about the operating costs and whether the stadium would pay for itself.
Paradee again pointed to Frawley Stadium’s corporation as a frame of reference. That entity has leased the stadium to the Blue Rocks for $50,000 per year, plus a percentage of ticket sales that amounts to a grand total of roughly $100,000 per year.
Then, that money goes to pay for the stadium’s electricity bills, maintenance and the executive director, Paradee said. The Blue Rocks, for their part, make a profit off tickets and concessions.
But Commissioner Eric L. Buckson (Levy Court District 4) wants to see more documentation about how far the county’s total involvement would be versus private involvement. The sports complex would be built off Del. Route 1 in Frederica, which is in his district.
“We have made a commitment to support the project and to contribute the land if it comes to fruition,” Buckson said. “I support the project. My question is, agreeing to this paper does what? Am I committed to a new arm of government? Am I committed to guaranteeing that if the project dies, the county then owns it?
"If it in any way says that we’re guaranteeing the notes and guaranteeing the debt, we’re not prepared to do that at all,” he said.