A state-of-the-art indoor sports arena could be coming to Delaware

The state lacks a dedicated indoor track venue for championships, creating barriers for student-athletes and missed opportunities.

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Track athlete Dallas Parker and teammates

Dallas Parker, on the right with Alexis I. duPont High School teammates, won the 2023 Delaware state track and field championships. (Courtesy Dallas Parker)

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After a week of school and rigorous after-school practices, weekends can become an exhausting affair for indoor track athletes, or student-athletes overall. For track and field members at Wilmington University, an early 4:30 a.m. bus departure means athletes need to rise even earlier.

Dallas Parker, a freshman track athlete at Wilmington University and a graduate of Alexis I. duPont High School, faces the challenge of having all his indoor meets performed out of state. These events predominantly take place at facilities in Maryland’s Eastern Shore and Prince George’s County, requiring travel times ranging from two and a half to three hours.

From his standpoint, the 3–4 hours on the road have a detrimental effect on an athlete’s performance by depriving them of crucial extra sleep, which hinders their chances to win their meets.

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“Five of my teammates missed the bus because we had to get [to the high school] at 4:30 a.m., so we didn’t do as good because we needed them there,” he said. “One time we didn’t have a bus to go there before and we needed to run that meet because we needed another chance to make it to states, and we just couldn’t do it.”

Limited transportation often holds them back at a higher level, making their chances of reaching state championships slim.

What is the solution to address this issue? An indoor sports facility.

Since its inception in 2018, Indoor Track Delaware has rallied a coalition of impassioned parents and coaches. Their collective aim: to spotlight the pressing necessity for an indoor track and sports facility within the confines of Delaware. According to Chuck Klous, president and cofounder of the organization, over 1,300 young athletes in Delaware are engaged in track and field.

“We have nothing within an hour of the state of Delaware,” said Klous. “So our kids on an average weekend can travel and spend six, seven or eight hours in the back of a school bus, and they have to get up before dawn and sometimes don’t get back until midnight,” he added.

The proposed layout for the Indoor Sports Venue in Delaware
The proposed layout for the indoor sports venue in Delaware. (Courtesy of Chuck Klous)

This issue becomes apparent every weekend during the indoor track season, running from November to February’s end.

Klous, a parent of four athletic children, personally experienced the impact of this issue when his family traveled over 2,000 miles to support his kids in competition. Unfortunately, for some parents, this is a significant barrier, resulting in a lack of family support — a support system that students like Parker yearn for to witness their progress and capture moments of victory.

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“It was kind of hard running without a support system sometimes because, you know, you want them to see you progress as you keep running,” said Parker. “They just had to watch videos sometimes and they don’t really get to experience watching their kids run.”

According to Klous, establishing an indoor sports venue could alleviate the academic and athletic hurdles associated with travel times, giving students more time for their studies. He also highlighted the possibility of economic development in Delaware throughout various seasons, despite not being the primary focus.

“It would also benefit the other indoor sports because indoor track only lasts three and a half months, and the other eight and a half months a year, [the] facility could be used for volleyball, wrestling, basketball, things of that nature,” he said. “It would bring jobs to Delaware, it would bring revenue to Delaware. We didn’t find Indoor Track Delaware to be an economic benefit, but there is a clear benefit.”

Indoor Track Delaware conducted an economic study, drawing a comparison to the indoor Virginia Beach Sports Center where 2,000 to 3,000 people attend competitions. Travelers from the mid-Atlantic region could contribute to the influx, generating revenue for hotels, restaurants and toll expenses.

Parents and coaches want more support for Delaware athletes. They ask those who are around student-athletes to raise awareness, talk to legislators, donate funds and build relationships with private and public sectors.

The proposed indoor sports venue is projected to open by 2026. The location of the facility has yet to be determined.

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