The asphalt on the new roads and synthetic turf on the new field outside the 76ers Fieldhouse have barely set, but the tenants working inside say they want to make Wilmington’s new athletics facility a showcase for the region.
Since the Fieldhouse opened for the Wilmington Blue Coats’ first G-League home game on January 23, the building has hosted Cardi B, O.A.R., several high school events including graduations and the Sean Locke Memorial Basketball Classic, plus youth sports clinics in multiple sports.
It will also be the site for ESPN’s First Take, that is coming to Wilmington for the city’s annual HBCU Week and college fair.
The Buccini-Pollin Group, who oversaw the construction and now the sports operation at the Fieldhouse, has estimated over 10,000 kids have taken part in events inside the building, including 3,700 enjoying no-cost clinics and camps.
The basketball courts and indoor synthetic field have already gotten plenty of use, but now the other tenants are starting to get their roots planted in the building, as well.
Titus Sports Academy has opened up its wing of the Fieldhouse, and Managing Partner Shawn Hoffman said that, combined with Nemours, incoming Athletic Training branch this fall, the Fieldhouse can be a one-stop shop for many athlete’s needs.
“We’re all spokes in the wheel. When you talk about developing people, there’s a lot of things that go into it. We serve the human performance side of things. With our athletes it’s speed, strength, and athletic development. With adults, we’re working on getting them in great shape, and then you being in Nemours Sports Medicine, which serves that role, combined with the ability for teams to come in here to practice and play, it’s a great atmosphere.”
Kimberly Pierson, Senior Director for Therapeutic and Rehab Services at Nemours, said they were simply looking for a home away from their main campus on Rockland Road, to separate themselves from the hospital side of their brand.
“The kids don’t see themselves as sick, they’re injured. So we were looking for a place to go outside of the hospital to continue our program and expand, and with this being a premier adolescent athlete site and housing so many events, plus the synergy with Titus, we saw as a great opportunity to expand our programming.”
Pierson added Nemours is hoping to make the Fieldhouse a home for their already-existing coaching and injury prevention programs, plus what they’re calling their “state of the art” concussion testing.
“Just the vibe that is here, is unlike anywhere else. I think our opportunity to put all of the connective pieces together for an athlete, or just a child who really enjoys sports and wants to play on a less competitive level, we’re going to have every option here.”
76ers President Chris Heck, a Wilmington-resident, said watching everything come together for his city’s youth community meshes with that their NBA franchise aims to do.
“This really fit into our program with the Sixers to have our athletes be equipped with the best of the best, and this building does that. But to carry over that mantra with the youth sports in Wilmington and North Delaware is true to form. They’re getting the kind of treatment we would be giving our elite, professional athletes.”
There is still work to be done at the site.
While the parking lots are finished, there’s still the matter of completing the Riverfront Bridge to connect the 76ers Fieldhouse to the restaurants and shops on the west side of the Christina River. It’s not clear what else the City has in mind for the east side of the river to go with the pre-existing shopping center that includes a Shop-Rite.
Also, it’s not clear what can be done about fact that South Walnut Street tends to flood right in front of the building during heavy rainstorms.
That said, considering the land was sitting vacant until a $1.5 million purchase by the Riverfront Development Corporation, optimism is rising that they have put together a place where Wilmington-area athletes can call home, and become the next Darnell Savage or Brian O’Neill, Delaware athletes playing at the professional level.