ELKTON — The Elkton Mayor and Commissioners received an update Wednesday afternoon on the proposed sports park that is anticipated to be part of the overall Southfields project.
Michael Browne with Sideline Properties, LLC participated in Wednesday’s Zoom meeting to provide updates on the proposed project and speak about the economic importance of the proposed sports park.
Browne started by telling the board that a lot of assumptions have been made and are being spread about the property, specifically that outside interests are primarily involved in the Southfields project. He made it clear that he and his wife both grew up in Cecil County and have property in Cecil County, noting that their intention is geared specifically towards improving the county and in helping to create opportunities for residents here.
Browne said that nationwide youth travel sports is a $200 billion a year industry and is one of the fastest growing industries, specifically as it relates to vacationing and travel. He said that 34 percent of trips taken by families are in some way connected to a youth sporting experience. He noted that in his own family, vacations consist mostly of taking his own family to places for youth sporting activities for his own children.
“We realized that we were greatly underserving and missing out on tourism here in Cecil County,” he said.
He said that county wide, youth sporting opportunities are virtually non-existent. While he did acknowledge the youth sporting opportunities at Calvert Regional Park he added that the facilities at Calvert are relatively small compared to some request for sports activity he has seen.
Browne said that for certain sports young athletes will play anywhere from 12 to 20 tournaments a year and that parents spend between $4,000 and $13,000 a year for travel and other expenses related to travel tournaments. He noted these dollars are in the form of hotel night stays, lodging, gas, food and other related travel expenses, all dollars Cecil County could be attracting.
Browne said his company has already made contact with sports youth teams and colleges across the country, many of whom have committed to play at the park when it is completed. The numbers Browne offered to the board were significant, some 30,000 teams and 400 colleges, according to information he provided during the meeting.
He noted that attracting colleges is one of the important aspects of travel based competition, allowing athletes to be seen by college recruiters and possibly earning scholarships at those schools.
The parks will not just be for those families and athletes with the money to compete, he said. Browne noted that one of the other ideas behind the sports park is to help underprivileged kids in Cecil County, who normally would not have the resources to compete in other states’ tournaments to compete against top class competition here in Cecil County and display their skills to colleges.
“This would be an opportunity for kids who can’t travel to do it locally in Cecil County,” he said.
Browne said the overall goal would be to create a world-class sports location in the county. Including not only sports fields, but top-of-the-line amenities including what he called “Waldorf-Astoria” level restroom facilities and higher end dining facilities.
With respect to dining options at the sports park, Browne noted that while the sports park would have traditional concession stand fare, he also wanted to provide food options such as crab cakes and other local specialties that the Eastern Shore of Maryland is known for. He said these types of higher end amenities will continue to draw families in and would result in families returning to the park, due to the quality of the offerings here in Cecil County.
Browne added that the proposed fields would sport artificial turf, not only for maintenance considerations, but also because those fields are the most appealing, not only for athletes and their families, but also for colleges. He noted that colleges want to be sure tournaments they plan to attend are going to happen and not result in cancellations. Having artificial fields allows tournaments to still be played even following inclement weather as the fields are not muddy or damaged by storms, thereby ensuring a tournament is completed as scheduled.
Elkton Mayor Rob Alt noted that the increase in tourism would also bring additional businesses, including hotels and restaurants who would look to capitalize on the increased revenue provided by the proposed measure. Alt added that the proposal presents an incredible opportunity for the town of Elkton and Cecil County.