Making The Big Play
Liberty Sports Park Groundbreaking Is A Big Deal For County Future
Eleven years ago, then councilman Doug Peters thought it would be a good idea to squirrel away a few dollars for a sports park. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
It was. In fact, the idea grew from a $5 million investment to a $12 million, revenue generating, global sports destination.
This month’s groundbreaking of what will become nearly 12 fields at Liberty Sports Park based in Bowie, Md. is expected to yield nearly $29 million in annual revenue, provide some 300-500 jobs and $1.5 million annually in tax revenue. The 76-acre facility will attract 330,000 tourists per year, over 20 tournaments annually. The park will accommodate football, lacrosse, field hockey, and ultimate frisbee for Prince George's and the mid-Atlantic region. Also, the Michael Companies' South Lake destination, within walking distance of the park, will bring several hotels and compelling retail to the area adding greater value to Liberty Sports Park.
It’s scheduled to open in or soon after 2020.
“It was just going to be a regular park,” Peters says. “But after we did a study, the numbers just jumped off the page. We realized that we could actually make money on the weekends and that would fund the kids during the week. So the public schools and [Maryland-National Capital] Park and Planning could use [the park] Monday through Thursday. It will be the first of its kind. It will open up for tournaments and make money and reinvest to give to kids who are going through tough times. They may need new cleats, they many need new lacrosse gear, new football shoulder pads but we will recycle the money.”
Since the original spark of funding by Peters as a member of the county council, several groups have stepped in to complete Liberty Sports Park including The Washington Redskins’ Charitable Foundation, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, the state of Maryland and The Green Branch Foundation. The groundbreaking took place at Calvert Brewing Company in Upper Marlboro among some 150 county VIPs, business leaders, and elected officials led by County Executive Rushern Baker and including County Councilmember Todd Turner and Prince George’s County Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Dr. Kevin M. Maxwell.
"It's not just sports thing," Baker said at the groundbreaking. "It's about what we want for our children and for our nation. We want our children to be well rounded. And that's what's going to happen."
Baker thanked the Washington Redskins organization for being a good corporate neighbor in its support of the park. "This could not have been done without The Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation."
Washington Redskins President Bruce Allen said "This is the Field of Dreams for the next generation and we are proud to be a part of it."
Tom Graham, best known as a former executive at PEPCO, hosted the event as chair of the Green Branch Foundation. Green Branch Foundation is the site developer for Liberty Sports Park. Graham is also a former professional athlete (soccer) who took an interest in the opportunity to develop something special for the area’s developing talent.
“I grew up playing in the back alleys of DC. We didn't have a Liberty Sports Park. This provides quality facilities for our young athletes but we want to stress academics,” Graham says. “You can be as good as you want but that doesn’t mean you will get to college. You have to have the right combo of academics and athletics. We want to provide that environment, put in front of you positive role models so you will be able to excel. I always viewed soccer as a way to fund my education because there was no guarantee to a pro career. I did get there but even with that, you have four or five years and then what do you do with the rest of your life? So education continues to be the foundation and we want to be a part of both.”
Maxwell likes the idea of wedding academics with athletics and looks forward to the additional space the project will create for all school outdoor programs.
“Anybody who is knowledgeable about high schools knows that we have more teams than we have field space: Trying to schedule places for soccer, lacrosse, football, marching bands, cheerleaders and more stretches us pretty thin and creates a real difficulty. Having additional opportunities here will be great,” Maxwell says.
“This is about vision, partnership and working together on that particular vision," Turner says. "This is a unique partnership between the county, the state, The Redskins Foundation and private development that will pay for itself in the long run. Teams and others will come to Prince George’s County to use this world class facility.”