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Downtown Recreation Complex Building Project Gets Going in Ocean City, Md.

Tue May 02, 2023 - Northeast Edition #11
The Dispatch & CEG

Officials gathered to celebrate the beginning of construction on Ocean City’s new downtown recreation complex. (Town of Ocean City photo)
Officials gathered to celebrate the beginning of construction on Ocean City’s new downtown recreation complex. (Town of Ocean City photo)

The Ocean City Recreation and Parks Department in Maryland, along with several elected officials, officially broke ground April 25 on the Downtown Recreation Complex project. The two-block park area where the construction will be done is next to Isle of Wight Bay between 3rd and 4th streets in the barrier island beach town.

The west block infrastructure work is expected to include property elevation, improved bayside boardwalk access and the addition of head-in parking along 4th Street, as well as the installation of walking paths, benches, a new playground and increased security measures.

This portion of the park is currently closed to the public, according to the city.

Work on the east block of the complex is expected to include an expansion of the Ocean Bowl Skate Park, the installation of a new multi-court surface for both tennis and pickleball play, reconstruction of the basketball courts and the addition of new public restrooms.

"I am thrilled that the Downtown Recreation Complex renovation is under way," said Ocean City Recreation & Parks Director Susan Petito at the project kickoff. "This reimagining project has been long in the works, and I am grateful to the mayor and [city council], the Ocean City Development Corp., and all the dedicated town staff and community members who have supported the effort, recognized its importance, and helped it become a reality."

The complex is expected to see its completion in time for a summer 2024 opening, at which point it will be the focal point of the downtown area.

The Dispatch, a weekly newspaper, noted that the groundbreaking was highly anticipated among Ocean City officials, as the project's pre-construction began two years ago. The process was slowed when bids for the $2.2 million first phase came in about twice the budgeted amount.

Earlier this year, a rebidding effort took place with the accepted bid ultimately being $2.7 million from David A. Bramble Inc., a paving contractor in Chestertown, Md. The $500,000 difference between the approved bid and the budgeted amount is expected to be made up through grants, Ocean City officials told the Dispatch.

A key element in the overall park complex redevelopment is the expansion of the decades-old Ocean Bowl skate park.

The plan calls for an upgrade of the existing facility along with the addition of popular street-skate elements. The expansion will take the skate park from its existing 10,000 sq. ft. to 17,000 sq. ft.

The city has requested Program Open Space funds through Worcester County to assist with the skate park renovation.

With the bay on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, Ocean City has long been one of the state's top tourist destinations. Although it has a population of only about 6,800 full-time residents, on weekends during the summer, the town often hosts between 320,000 and 345,000 vacationers, and up to eight million visitors annually.

In the summer months, Ocean City can become the second most populated municipality in Maryland, after Baltimore.

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