There is no arguing that the Sports at the Beach complex in Georgetown is a great facility to promote youth sports, provides an outlet for young people to get recreation and is a wonderful face to represent our community to people who come down every year to participate in various tournaments.
However, we feel Sussex County Council made the correct decision recently when it decided to pass on buying the financially-troubled facility for approximately $7.5 million.
Without a parks and recreation department, the fact remains that the county council is responsible for the recreational facilities for the entire county, and to earmark such a significant investment for one facility is somewhat irresponsible to the rest of the community. For instance, the Little League Facility at the Pyle Center in Roxana, which hosts the World Series of senior softball players, is in need of funds to enhance the facility even more to both keep possession of the tournament and to provide the best possible atmosphere for players and spectators alike.
It is a great thing that the members of the council considered this purchase, because it is indeed both a boon for our local economy through the tournaments and an act of good faith toward youth sports. But there are other, more pressing needs that the county should be addressing with their funding.
Yes, this would preserve 93 acres of open space for a county in desperate need of preservation on any level. And that’s a sound argument for the council to be involved in ensuring the facility both stays open and prospers. However, that involvement could come in a form that does not directly include the spending of $7.5 million of public money.
For instance, the county could search for private investors.
It has become a popular notion in professional sports facilities with local governments and the private sector partnering up — and it could easily take place in this instance. The county could put out some of the funds, they could sell naming rights to a corporate sponsor and fill in the blanks with various other businesses or private citizens. They could sell bricks with donors’ names enscribed or any other various means of generating revenue could be explored.
Also, by partnering with private businesses, the county would also partner with the minds of these businesses, providing more of an opportunity to come up with ideas to limit spending and generate funds.
Yes, it’s important that the facility remain in place, but it’s also important that the county get involved with as little risk as possible to public monies. While it’s a positive for the entire community for Sports at the Beach to remain, it can also be a positive if it’s not owned solely by our county.