SALISBURY – The Wicomico County Council took the swing to go ahead with a request that will bring two softball tournaments into the county along with a predicted millions of dollars in revenue.
The County Council reviewed a request on Tuesday to authorize the appropriation of $30,000 from the tourism fund balance to tourism capital for improvements to athletic fields.
Wicomico Recreation Parks and Tourism Director Gary Mackes, requested the appropriation to make improvements to the athletic fields to accommodate the 2012 National Girls Softball Tournament in July.
“Economic development is what tourism is all about and what we do is leverage our assets to bring events, sports tournaments, meetings, and conferences to Wicomico County to infuse money into our local economy,” Mackes said.
Mackes announced that Wicomico County has the opportunity to host not one, but two girls’ softball World Series events during a period of 11 days in mid-July.
“This will be the largest event that has ever been held in Wicomico County when we talk about tourism dollar infusion,” he said.
The first tour will bring 120 teams, while the second tour will bring 200 teams. That is approximately 7,000 people a day, with an accumulative total attendance of 70,000 people. The events will have an estimated economic impact in the region of $12.1 million.
“That is about what we generate in one year for all of our 40 events collectively,” Mackes said.
He added that the events will bring too large of a population to fit into the county’s hotel space and will spill into other regions, but as far as Wicomico is concerned it means 10,000 hotel rooms to be booked spanning over nine nights, which will impact the county’s economy in a $6.3 million gain.
Mackes is in the middle of negotiations with the event’s organizers and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been formed, in which the county has to agree to certain items.
“For a one-time deal, we have to enhance some of the fields that they are playing on and that is what requires the transfer from the tourism reserve,” he said.
The softball games are to be played at East Wicomico Little League, Fruitland Little League, Eastside Youth Sports Complex, Fruitland Recreational Park, Winterplace Park, Mason-Dixon Sports Complex and the Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex.
According to Mackes, all but Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex needs some kind of improvements to satisfy the MOU. Improvements include seed, portable fences for outfields, fixing fences in some areas, among other items, and those expenses run about $16,000. To grow grass in the required areas some irrigation needs to be completed, which is an additional $13,000.
“I need to get going with this, obviously to execute the MOU and there are other jurisdictions that would like this event,” Mackes said. “This is huge, no event is held at this magnitude other than in Orlando Fla. at the Disney World complex.”
The council voted unanimously to approve the request to authorize the appropriation of $30,000 to the athletic fields.
“Tourism is working in Wicomico County,” Mackes said.
In other news, the County Council also worked through a number of requests during Tuesday evening’s meetings, including authorizing an appropriation of $82,670 from the fund balance to Salisbury-Ocean City- Wicomico Regional Airport for improvements to the Piedmont Hanger Complex.
Salisbury-Ocean City: Wicomico Regional Airport Director Robert Bryant said that the Piedmont Airlines has been a tenant of the airport dating back to 1974. Wicomico County built the current Piedmont Hanger Complex, and it is a county-owned facility.
“Of course dating back to 1974, it is in need of some repairs, specifically the roof,” Bryant said.
The total project amount is $282,607 but the airport commission has already appropriated $200,000 in this fiscal year’s operating budget.
“The airport is an enterprise account and there is no funding from our general budget going to the airport,’” Council President Joe Holloway explained as the council voted unanimously to approve the request.
Next the council reviewed a request to make an appropriation of funds to various Sheriff Department accounts from unanticipated revenue in the amount of $33,000.
Captain Tod Richardson explained the money was spent by the Department of Public Safety and Corrections for registering sex offenders. He added that out of the 165 sex offenders in Wicomico County, 132 of those are Tier 3, meaning they are registered for life and have to register four times a year.
“This is one of the state mandates that came to us a few years ago unfunded and after some work with the Maryland Sheriffs Association the state began to fund the sheriff’s office for the expense that we go through in registering these offenders,” he said.
The council voted unanimously to approve an appropriation of funds.
“Sounds like you are working hard to keep our children safe,” Joe Holloway said.