Worcester County, MD is likely too small to support an ECHL team at a new arena, according to a recently released study.
On Tuesday, the Maryland Stadium Authority released a portion of a study that was conducted by Crossroads Consulting Services on the proposal for a new arena and an adjacent sports complex in the Eastern Shore county. The study is to be carried in two phases–the second of which is not complete–but the first phase has already been unveiled, and it points out the issues that Worcester County would face.
The county’s small population and proximity to competing civic centers, arenas, and convention centers in locations such as Baltimore, Ocean City, and Salisbury limit its appeal. Salisbury is the county’s largest city with a population that, according to the most recent estimates, sits at just under 33,000, while Ocean City acts as the county’s main tourism draw.
Worcester County is not a stranger to professional sports, as Minor League Baseball’s Delmarva Shorebirds have called the area home since 1996. While the Shorebirds have received admirable support over the years, the scheduling of baseball season over the spring and summer months offers an advantage that is not available to minor league hockey. More from Delmarva Now:
Worcester County’s biggest hurdle for hockey is market size, particularly the population base during the winter months, when hockey is played and when Ocean City is much less busy than it is in the summer. Crossroads identified the market for the arena as the “Salisbury Metro Area,” which consists of Worcester, Wicomico, Somerset and Sussex counties.
In the 2015-16 season, in terms of market size, the average population for the host of an ECHL team was 1,198,000 and the median population was 660,750, both of which were significantly larger than the “Salisbury Metro Area.” The combined population of those counties is 395,300.
Crossroads also cited that there is limited interest from regional and national concert promoters, and scholastic and collegiate tournament organizers — such as the MPSSAA, which governs public high school athletics in Maryland — in using the proposed arena for events.
The study identified a team from the ECHL — hockey’s sort-of Double-A level — as the main tenant of an arena in Worcester, but also explored teams from the Southern Professional Hockey League, the NBA D-League and the Major Arena Soccer League as possible tenants.
Hat Trick Consultants of Texas was first reported to have pitched the concept of a new arena for professional hockey in 2015.