Parker Athletic Complex undergoing expansion

Field 5 at Wicomico County’s Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex has been transformed, and three new fields will soon be added.

Officials spoke about the expansion project during a news conference at the Complex on Wednesday.

Field 5’s infield has been replaced with synthetic turf, and the construction of new dugouts is under way. There will also be a new scoreboard, batting cages and press box at that field. With the three fields that will be added, the Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex will house a total of eight baseball/softball fields. The project is expected to be completed by spring 2018.

“We are now going to take that facility to the next level, and we’re very, very excited about that,” said Steve Miller, director of Wicomico County Recreation, Parks & Tourism.

Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver unveiled the rendering of what the Complex will look like once all the fields are completed.

Representatives of the U.S. Specialty Sports Association and Athletx were also on hand to discuss upcoming tournaments at the Complex.

USSSA will return to Wicomico County for the 11th year this summer for the annual USSSA Eastern World Series. In 2016, nearly 5,000 softball players traveled to the Lower Eastern Shore over three weeks for the USSSA Eastern World Series. The event generated an estimated economic impact over $17 million and a hotel room night demand in excess of 10,000.

The event is also projected to generate an estimated economic impact of more than $17 million in 2017.

There are few facilities with turf softball and baseball fields for use in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, said Bill Dowell, USSSA’s vice president of fastpitch and the Maryland and Delaware state fastpitch director.

“What this facility does is it adds a unique stamp to what we consider an already unique event,” Dowell said.

Athletx will bring a new tournament to Wicomico County beginning in 2018. Athletx hosts youth baseball nationals events for boys ages 8-14. In its first year, the event is expected to draw 60 teams, requiring more than 4,000 hotel room nights. The estimated economic impact for 2018 is $5 million.

Athletx CEO and co-founder Jim Haddaway is excited about the new tournament location.

“When I walked up this morning on this, I was blown away,” Haddaway said, standing on the turf field. “This turf looks beautiful, the surrounding area is gorgeous, you’re close to the beach – it has everything that we look for in a destination and we can’t be more than thrilled to bring our event here.”

In Fiscal Year 2017, which began July 1, 2016 and runs through June 30, 2017, the projected economic impact from the Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex is nearly $33 million. That number is expected to rise to more than $38 million in Fiscal Year 2018.

Terry Hasseltine, executive director of Maryland Sports, praised Wicomico County’s role in youth and amateur sports.

“We’re blessed in the state of Maryland that Wicomico County is the leader in the youth and amateur sports markets,” Hasseltine said. “They are stalwarts in the community of Maryland; they’re also well-known and well-respected and appreciated on the national scene.”

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