The Sussex Sports Center Foundation’s Joe Schell on July 17 presented to the Sussex County Council an update on the progress of the group’s new sports complex, Sandhill Fields.
Schell said the excavation and embankment of the facility near Georgetown was expected to begin the very next day, on July 18, with the grand opening of the facility currently scheduled for September of 2019.
The non-profit’s mission is to “build, operate and maintain a first-class multisport public park in the middle of Sussex County for its citizens of all ages to enjoy.”
During his presentation, Schell noted that while New Castle County has 247 public parks and Kent County has 38, Sussex County has none, aside from municipal parks.
The completed complex will feature eight regular-sized soccer/lacrosse fields, six pickleball courts with a pavilion, a 3.1-mile regulation cross-country course, 3.5 miles of walking trail, playground equipment, picnic pavilions, restrooms, a food-truck area and parking for 350 cars.
“Most of our kids from the youth sports teams — when they play sports on the weekends or practice during the week this time of the year… they’re practicing on second- or third-tier fields at middle schools or elementary schools… They only usually have two fields, and some of these teams have 1,300 kids on them… The facts are — we need more fields in one space.”
Schell said he believes the more than 215,000 people who live in Sussex County will benefit from the facility, including those who participate in sports clubs such as Henlopen Soccer Club, Salt Water Lacrosse Club and the First State Pickle Ball Club.
Sandhill Fields will be located close to Route 9 and Sand Hill Road near Georgetown, on 56 acres of property donated to the foundation by Schell himself.
Schell also had an update on the cost of the project. In previous presentations to the council, he had estimated the cost of creating the facility at $4 million; however, on Tuesday, he said they are now estimating $5.8 million in total costs.
“The nice thing is the County isn’t responsible for any of that increase,” he said. “The private sector is going to put up all the money necessary to complete the facility at this level or higher.”
Back in February, the council had approved loan documents for a $1.5 million loan to the foundation. The $1.5 million County loan has a 0-percent interest rate for 50 years, with no payments needing to be made in the first 10 years.
The County can purchase the complex after 10 years, at the cost of $1, and the loan would be forgiven in its entirety should that occur. If the County does not purchase the facility, the payments due to the County would be $37,500 annually, after those 10 years.
Schell said the foundation has spent a little more than $200,000 on engineering thus far, but will spend $1.3 million — which they currently have in the bank — on engineering the entire project.
By Maria Counts