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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Letter to the Editor

Sports complex process concerning


For the record, I am not opposed to a Sports Complex. However, I am opposed to the use of public funds to build, operate and subsidize one. In Economic Analysis for a Proposed New Outdoor Sports Field Complex in Worcester County, Maryland issued in August, 2017 by Crossroads Consulting Services, it indicates that such facilities require an approximate 25% annual subsidy. They also wrote, in part, “…some tournament promoters/producers expressed a concern regarding the potential of oversaturation of the Mid-Atlantic market, particularly as the competitive supply of facilities continues to change.” The Worcester County Commissioners were wise to reject the concept.

Fast forward to 2019, and the Mayor & City Council (M&CC) of Ocean City order their own study. In Market And  Economic Analysis for an Indoor Fieldhouse And Outdoor Field Complex in Ocean City, Maryland, completed in January, 2020, it states, in part, “…the supply of comparable facilities is continuing to increase both regionally and nationally.” And, “The growing supply of similar outdoor sports facilities in the region needs to be closely monitored to avoid market saturation.”

Within the 2020 study, I found numerous red flags that are cause for concern about the feasibility of such a project. For example, from 2014 to 2018, frequent participation rates have declined in every outdoor sport listed including soccer, baseball, softball, touch football, tackle football, flag football and lacrosse. Note, this occurred pre-Covid. The study states, in part, “Given the limited nature of this study as it relates to the proposed outdoor field complex, this update does not include case studies of comparable outdoor sports complexes.” It begs the question, why was this study limited in nature?

The 2020 study also reveals that from 2014 to 2018, with one exception, frequent participation rates have declined in every indoor sport listed including basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, martial arts and wrestling. Only cheerleading showed an increase during this five-year period. Again, this occurred pre-Covid. Perhaps, the most troubling statement in the 2020 study is the following, “The analysis performed was limited in nature and, as such, Crossroads Consulting Services LLC does not express an opinion or any other form of assurance on the information presented in this report.”

After the M&CC spent $49,000 for this report, they should have scrapped the idea.

Apparently not satisfied with the first study, what does the M&CC do? They ordered a second study and paid an additional $49,000 for Market And Economic Analysis Update For A Proposed New Sports Complex In Berlin, Maryland, issued in November, 2022. Red flags continue in the Town’s second study. For example, it states, “In addition to the previously profiled facilities in the region, there is a significant supply of both indoor and outdoor sports-tourism focused facilities throughout the broader U.S. that is continuously growing. Some of these facilities would also compete with the proposed sports complex for certain event activities such as National competitions.” Some sport participation rates reportedly showed some gains between 2019 and 2021, However the 2022 study states, “With the exception of basketball, core participation in every team sport analyzed was down or flat in 2020, and despite some recovery in 2021, many remained significantly below pre-pandemic levels. The 2-year change in core participation from 2019 to 2021 for baseball, cheerleading, gymnastics, lacrosse, indoor soccer, slow-pitch softball, and wrestling all reflect double-digit decreases.”

A 2020 similar study by the same consultants for St. Mary’s County, Maryland revealed that eleven profiled city or county owned sports facilities all showed an operating deficit. The 2022 Ocean City study was void of any revenue/expense data regarding profiled sports facilities.

The 2022 study further states, “Several indoor and outdoor sports facilities have either expanded or been constructed since January 2020 adding to the significant supply of competitive facilities profiled in the previous study.” The 2022 study adds “Based on the market research conducted to date, the proposed sports complex would likely operate at a deficit, which is not unlike other similar facilities.” This second study repeats a familiar theme and states, “The analysis performed was limited in nature and, as such, Crossroads Consulting Services LLC does not express an opinion or any other form of assurance on the information presented in this report.”

The Mayor & City Council are about to embark on a Sports Complex that is estimated to cost nearly $167,000,000. Approximately 24% of the cost is to be bonded by the M&CC, with the balance to come from the State of Maryland presumably through state bonds or grants. The M&CC seem to forget that state debt is an obligation on local taxpayers as well.

As of this writing, there is no guarantee that the State will fund their portion. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the Worcester County Commissioners will vote unanimously to increase the room tax to 6%, which the M&CC has their eye on to help subsidize the Sports Complex.

Why is fiscal responsibility so lacking in local government?

Vincent dePaul Gisriel Jr.
Ocean City