With colored lights shining brightly, video boards illuminated and music playing, softball teams are announced by a DJ and make their way onto the stage at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center one by one. Fog rises at times.
Softball players represent their teams, some holding banners or signs and some documenting the moment on their phones. Most of them are dressed in costumes representing the tournament theme.
This energetic scene serves as a welcome to Wicomico County, Maryland, for hundreds of girls’ softball players and their families. The following day, the girls will start playing games in Wicomico County, including at the Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex and at other locations on Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore.
In spring 2018, Wicomico County Recreation, Parks & Tourism completed a $3 million expansion project at the 41-acre Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex, adding three new diamond fields – each with a full-size synthetic turf infield – and replacing an existing field’s infield with synthetic turf. The complex now boasts eight diamond fields, batting cages, concession stands, meeting rooms, free Wi-Fi, plenty of parking and a park-wide public address system. Built among trees, the facility is well-shaded.
Beautiful Area, Welcoming Community
Located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay, Wicomico County is an ideal place for families to enjoy while here for tournaments and other sporting events.
Wicomico County is not just a beautiful Mid-Atlantic location – it’s a convenient one. Wicomico County is less than a three-and-a-half-hour drive for 25 percent of the U.S. population and within two-and-a-half hours of Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.
It’s a welcoming community, too, said Kristen Goller, tourism manager for Wicomico County.
“When events come to town, you see a lot of messages on the marquees and storefronts, welcoming teams and visitors,” she said. “People get really excited here when tournaments are in town. They have a sense of ownership in helping to make the experience excellent for visiting athletes, fans and families.”
This enthusiasm translates into finding plenty of volunteers in the community willing to help out visiting tournament owners and organizers.
Wicomico County also has a strong relationship and partnership with Maryland Sports and neighboring regions.
“Through the Mid-Atlantic Amateur Sports Alliance, which we founded with our neighbors in Ocean City and Worcester County, we can work together in partnership to accommodate events that might be too large for Wicomico County alone to handle,” Goller said.
A Transformative Venue
The same Wicomico Youth & Civic Center arena that’s used for the softball players parading in during opening ceremonies fills with high school basketball fans and families each December for the Governors Challenge high school basketball tournament.
It’s now the largest holiday basketball tournament in the nation, and in 2019, 120 teams are slated to compete.
The venue has also been a longstanding host of a 15-mat wrestling event that brings in more than 1,200 wrestlers who range in age from 5 to adults. It also hosts large volleyball events, and cheer and dance events fit nicely into the venue.
“From opening ceremonies to basketball tournaments to monster truck shows, there’s always something different happening at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center,” Goller said. “The arena is able to transform to meet the needs of events.”
The look of the building has transformed, too. The Wicomico Youth & Civic Center recently completed a $3 million renovation that included new seats and other changes in the arena along with a new color scheme and flooring in the meeting rooms, lobbies and corridors.
Home to the Delmarva Shorebirds, a Class A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, the 5,000-seat Arthur W. Perdue Stadium has benefited from a number of improvements over the past year, including new seating, new video boards and the addition of a 360-degree concourse deck.
Wicomico County is also home to Salisbury University, a Division III institution. The recently-constructed $19 million Sea Gull Stadium is ideal for football, field hockey, soccer and lacrosse. It includes a new turf field, a video scoreboard and permanent seating.
The $3.2 million Sea Gull Softball Stadium features permanent seating for 500 fans, heated dugouts, a large press box, bullpens, four batting cages, new scoreboard and more. The skinned field now has artificial turf in the outfield, too.
“Wicomico County is a location that has it all,” Goller said. “We invite you to explore our scenic County and find a home for your event here.”