$3M athletic complex expansion, new tournament coming to Wicomico

25 May 2017

Wicomico County is adding another sports tournament to its catalog of events such as the Governor's Challenge basketball tournament and the USSSA Softball tournament.

County officials and the state of Maryland will pump in $3 million to expand the Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex and will host a new youth baseball tournament in 2018, officials announced Wednesday.

Additions to the Salisbury site on Naylor Mill Road will include eight fields with new dugouts, scoreboards and a pressbox, officials said. The goal is to have the expansion finished in six to eight months.

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

County officials also said they will host Athletx, an organization present throughout the country, in 2018 for the Youth Baseball Nationals. The event is expected to bring in $5 million.

The tournament is a week-long program for 9U-15U baseball teams. Players from around the country compete in games and attempt to enhance their playing skills.

Jim Haddaway, CEO of Athletx said he was blown away by the new fields at Parker Complex and is committed to making it  a long-term home of these tournaments.

A native of Baltimore, Haddaway admitted he had hoped for an opportunity to bring Athletx to the Eastern Shore, given his ties to the area.

With the new upgrades to the Parker Complex, paired with the general location and scenery of the surrounding area, Haddaway felt signing a contract with Wicomico County was a no-brainer.

“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.”

The tournament is set to take place from June 29 to July 5 in 2018. Officials also announced the USSSA softball tournament will be back in 2017 and 2018. Playing in Wicomico for the past 10 years, the tournament averages $17 million in benefits to the the community economy.

"It's important we retain the events we have, but we also want to expand. You look at the economic impact of those things and the numbers don't lie. These events are on a national stage, we're a small community on the Eastern Shore, but we're attracting and retaining national caliber events, and that's huge for our community," Miller said.

USSSA will return to Wicomico County for the eleventh 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 demand in excess of 10,000.

Officials said turf playing surfaces and more fields were the big reasons for the tournament returning. 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.”

While having the opportunity to play on a brand new field could be reason enough for some organizations to come to Wicomico, County Executive Bob Culver made sure Haddaway and other Athletx officials had the full "Eastern Shore experience" when pitching the idea to come to the Shore.

"We try to show them as much hospitality as we possibly can and give them the Wicomico hospitality treatment," Culver said. "It's showing that we are a player in a much larger scale in the state of Maryland."