By Terry Rogers
Bill Strickland, chairman of the Kent County Regional Sports Complex Corporation, states that the DE Turf sports complex north of Milford is 99 percent complete and on target for opening on April 1, 2017. Mr. Strickland, at a Town Hall meeting at the Frederica Fire Hall held on Wednesday, February 8, shared that the complex will be applying for their Certificate of Occupancy soon. Before opening day, the organization will continue to work closely with DelDOT and Kent County Levy Court to address traffic concerns in the area.
“We know that this complex will bring traffic to the area,” Strickland said. “Its location on Route 1 and the nature of the tournaments that are planned for the complex could add to an already congested area of highway. Because safety is our primary concern, we have worked closely with DelDOT in an effort to protect the people who live, work and socialize in the area as well as those who are coming to the area for tournaments.”
Mike Rivera, DelDOT Traffic Safety and Special Events Manager, said that DelDOT looked closely at the complex and traffic patterns in the area. He was well aware of the amount of traffic on Route 1 during the summer months with people traveling to area beaches and said that DelDOT wanted to develop a plan that would minimize accidents and keep travelers safe.
“The only way to safely manage traffic is to close intersections surrounding the complex and utilize the new Thompsonville Road grade separated intersection,” Mr. Rivera said. “This will mean that people traveling southbound would need to pass the complex and take the Thompsonville overpass to come north on Route 1 in order to enter the complex. The only exception will be a Northbound left-turn only that will allow people to turn into Meding’s Seafood Restaurant at Tub Mill Pond Road. The closures will take place from 7 AM until 11 AM on weekends when tournaments are planned.” Mr. Rivera said that a schedule for crossover closures will be published and message boards placed along the highway to direct motorists.
Mr. Rivera said that the traffic patterns are a temporary measure until the grade-separated intersection in south Frederica is completed, a project that is expected to be completed in Spring 2018. There will be special crossover areas created for emergency personnel, however, such as ambulances and fire trucks who may need to cross Route 1 quickly, something that the Frederica Fire Chief indicated had already occurred in the area. Mr. Rivera also indicated that DelDOT would monitor traffic and, if it was determined the crossovers could be opened sooner, they would do so to minimize inconvenience for people living in the area.
“The light at Little Heaven will remain in place until at least Fall 2018,” Mr. Rivera said. “We want to give motorists time to adjust to the new overpass, so we plan to leave the light in place a little longer. We also don’t want to harm existing businesses in the area.
As of February 2017, 14 tournaments have been scheduled for the new complex which is designed for sports played on rectangular fields, such as soccer and lacrosse. The first tournament, College Connection Shooting Stars Showcase, a field hockey tournament, is planned for the weekend of April 14 and 15. No tournaments were planned for heavy traffic weekends, such as Labor Day, Memorial Day or Independence Day since tournament planners knew that such events would place considerable strain on area roadways. The 14 tournaments planned are estimated to bring 20,000 to 40,000 people into the area, including players, managers, coaches and family members who are there to watch the games.
“We are already seeing an increase in hotel reservations in the area,” Mr. Strickland said. “This is the only complex on the East Coast designed like this. We have walking trails so spectators are able to get from one field to another easily. All businesses in the area should see an increase in business during tournament weekends with people needing tent rentals, food, lodging and activities to keep them occupied in between games. We expect to see this complex as a huge economic boost in Dover, Frederica, Milford and beyond.”
Kent County Levy Court Commissioner Terry Pepper said he remembers when people stopped in Frederica on the way to the beach and that he hoped this would help grow Frederica. He credited the complex with the addition of paramedics in the area, just the first in many benefits he says southern Kent County will realize from the new complex.
State Representative Charles Postles is excited to see the opening of DE Turf and is looking forward to the completion of the overpass that should help mitigate traffic patterns to and from the complex. “A project of this magnitude is tough to get up and running,” State Representative Postles said. “There are going to be glitches. This traffic pattern will be inconvenient, there is no question. But, the Thompsonville overpass made things inconvenient, but we all managed. It seems as if the organization that brought this project to completion have a good plan and have tried to address every possible scenario so that the transition will be as smooth as possible.”
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