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Sports tourism fund grants $11.3M

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DE Turf Sports Complex was one of four venues that received a grant from the $11.3 million sports tourism fund. Gov. John Carney has proposed a second round of the fund in his Fiscal Year 2025 budget proposal. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING

DOVER — Delaware will soon see a boost to its sports tourism numbers now that the new Sports Tourism Capital Investment Fund Review Panel has announced $11.3 million in awarded money.

Four facilities over the span of all three Delaware counties were awarded funds previously created through the Bond and Capital Improvements Act from 2024. All told, $54 million was requested through the newly established funding source by 18 facilities.

Review panel members consisted of Sen. Jack Walsh and Rep. Debra Heffernan, as well as representatives of the Delaware Tourism Office, the Greater Wilmington Convention and Visitors Bureau, Kent County Tourism and Southern Delaware Tourism, according to the Delaware Tourism Office.

“This was a very competitive application process, and the panel worked diligently to consider the merits of each facility that applied,” Walsh said. “The applicants receiving funding play an important role in encouraging out-of-state visitors to attend sports events in Delaware, growing the economy, and introducing our gem of a state to new audiences.”

Bill Strickland, DE Turf board chairman, said he’s excited for the $3 million worth of possibilities now afforded to the Kent County-based sports complex. For DE Turf, located in Frederica along Route 113, the new pot of money will work to triple its stadium seating from 1,000 to 3,000 seats and remain competitive by constructing a new 5,500 square-foot tournament facility.

The changes, he added, will allow DE Turf the chance to host larger tournaments at both the regional and national levels.

“The stadium upgrade will offer state-of-the-art amenities, including a 5,500 sq ft building for home/away locker rooms, 200 person tournament room and an additional 2,000 seat stadium bleachers. With the expansion DE Turf will accommodate larger event organizations as well as the NCAA, well exceeding operator’s requirements for capacity,” Strickland said in a prepared statement for the Delaware Business Times. “The new stadium project will not only enhance the functionality and attractiveness of the DE Turf but also contribute to its long-term success and prestige in the world of youth sports.”

Pickleball options will also be on the rise in Rehoboth Beach with the help of $2 million from the investment fund offered to Midway Motion & Fitness. It will be used to construct a pickleball complex with 12 indoor courts and four outdoor courts, according to the Delaware Tourism Office, which could open the door for future American Pickleball Association tournaments here in Delaware.

The newer sport has grown in recent years across the state. New Castle County, for example, cut the ribbon on its newest pickleball court at Delcastle Tennis Center in early June.

In New Castle County, two groups were awarded funds to start or improve upon sports-related activities, including STATS Tournaments in Bear which will receive $300,000 for stadium lights and the addition of a new baseball and softball field.

Wilmington Sports LLC, a limited liability company connected to the Buccini/Pollin Group, was granted $6 million for the construction of a new indoor track facility inside the Chase Fieldhouse. It was the largest amount granted from the Sports Tourism Fund this cycle. This project they estimated would cost $23 million with $13 million in funding already secured. BPG originally sought $10 million.

“Sports tourism is a significant economic driver in our state, attracting thousands of visitors to Delaware each year and generating millions of dollars in revenue,” said Jessica Welch, director of the Delaware Tourism Office. “We are pleased to be able to support these facilities in their expansion efforts. This funding will go a long way in ensuring that our state can offer top-notch facilities to teams and event operators for years to come.”

Governor John Carney requested another $6 million for the Sports Tourism Capital Investment Fund in his proposed bond bill for fiscal year 2025. 

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