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Hotel groundbreaking signals next chapter for DE Turf

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Michael Meoli notes that the SpringHill Suites by Marriot will be a catalyst for growth in southern Kent County. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING

FREDERICA — With several soccer balls zipping through the air and bouncing off the dirt in an active construction zone, Mike Meoli of Meoli Companies celebrated the start of the company’s latest hotel project on Tuesday morning.

The 86-room SpringHill Suites by Marriott is on track to be opened in spring 2023. While it marks the second hotel outright owned by the Meoli Company, the project will become the first built to directly serve the DE Turf Complex right across Route 1.

“I’ve been asked on a number of occasions about my comfort level of being the first here. It’s always a little bit of a leap of faith to be the first one to jump and test the waters,” Meoli said. “And I’m proud to be the principal owner of this hotel. I know it will be really a catalyst for smart and responsible growth along this corridor for the next decade.”

In 2017, DE Turf opened with 84 acres of synthetic turf covering 12 athletic fields and has since become a major driver in Kent County tourism. With the guidance of its new executive director, Angie Eliason, the turf complex booked 42 tournaments last year. 

Its biggest victory to date was landing the USA Lacrosse men’s and women’s national teams for exhibition games last July, coinciding with the 2021 USA Lacrosse Youth Nationals. A record 80 girls’ lacrosse teams participated, and an estimated 30,000 people came to Frederica that week.

Last year, the athletic complex brought $56 million in direct economic impact to the state of Delaware, according to DE Turf Field Board Chairman Bill Strickland. It’s expected to grow to $80 million.

“We wanted the DE Turf to become an economic driver for central Delaware, and more importantly, we wanted to see  other businesses come here,” Strickland said. “When I see this hotel, I’m not only excited about realizing that vision, but also for a valued partnership to create the lodging needed.”

Michael Meoli, Bill Strickland, Frederica officials kick soccer balls with local children to commemorate the launch of a new hotel across the highway from DE Turf Complex. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING

As the DE Turf Field attracts bigger tournaments, the need grows for amenities for the athletes, scouts, families and spectators. Athletes may be staying as far Baltimore, Salisbury and Annapolis, Md., and driving in for games — and leaving for the night.

Those who do stay may find themselves in Milford and Harrington, and find themselves at the Frederica Pizza & Pasta House for a bite to eat before they head out.

“It’s the only pizza shop in town and during tournament nights, they’re selling out. It’s the best pizza out there, but we need more diversity in options, and we hope this will draw more growth,” Frederica Mayor William “Chick” Glanden told the Delaware Business Times. “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”

Meoli has partnered with land use lawyer John Pardee and Mike Koppenhaver on the project known as Asbury Square, with the hope to bring a gas station and a “blue ribbon” fast food restaurants and other convenience stores. The Delaware Department of Transportation proposed an interchange there in 2008, and a decade later, Pardee bought the land from the agency for $270,000.

However, Asbury Square may not be the only development on the horizon.The Meding family, who owns the nearby Meding & Son Seaford, rezoned neighboring 20 acres to commercial in 2012, while another family who owns 24 acres to the south has their land zoned commercial. 

Meoli said he was “acutely aware” of other developments, like possible hotels, on nearby properties, but his philosophy is that all boats rise with the tide.

“It’s better for all of us – for Frederica, the county and tourism,” Meoli added. “Keep in mind, tourism now is Delaware’s No. 1  industry. And when you look at the cars that are going by here, there’s a lot of ancillary services people are going to use.”

“When you think about the vision for the DE Turf field, this is it,” he continued. “This is what they had in mind, and I’m proud this hotel will be the next progression of that vision.”

Editor’s note: A Previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Mike Koppenhaver’s name. We regret the error.

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