ERMA – A local real estate agent is proposing a sports complex at the Cape May County Airport that supporters say could bring in offseason tournaments and provide more opportunities for fitness activities for young people.
Robert Buglak of Aviation Sports presented his concept to the Delaware River and Bay Authority Sept. 15. The indoor complex would initially include soccer fields, pickleball and volleyball courts, among other facilities.
The proposal was mentioned Thursday, Nov. 16, at a Cape May County Chamber of Commerce meeting by Stephen Williams, deputy executive director of the DRBA. The DRBA leases and operates the Cape May County Airport.
County Commissioner Will Morey said, “Ultimately it’s a private-sector project,” and that Aviation Sports had approached the airport with the idea. Morey said the county had been considering recreational enhancements at the airport, but this is a separate project.
Buglak, speaking on Monday, Nov. 20, said, “We want to do multiple sports … different things.”
He’d moved his family from Philadelphia to Cape May County, and eventually his sons started to play soccer for the Cape Express traveling team. He asked the coach about winter practice, and the coach told him they use a facility in Pitman.
Buglak said he was more than surprised that Cape May County had no facility the team could use in the winter. He started talking to Daniel Higman, the broker at Coastal Elite Realty, where Buglak works in mortgages, and Higman mentioned talking to Tracey Boyle-DuFault, executive director for the Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce.
“She heard about the project we wanted to do, and she put us in touch with the DRBA,” Buglak said.
He said the DRBA proposed to lease them a roughly 3-acre parcel near the Cape May Brewing Co. Williams said the DRBA had the lease proposal on the board of director’s agenda for Tuesday, Nov. 21; however, James Salmon, public information officer for the DRBA, said the resolution awarding the lease to Aviation Sports Complex LLC was tabled and will be carried over to the Dec. 19 meeting.
Buglak said the county engineer mentioned moving the project to a somewhat larger site at the airport.
The Aviation Sports Complex, as proposed, calls for an approximately 80,000-square-foot domed facility that would house an indoor track, soccer fields, lacrosse field, pickleball and volleyball courts, futsal court, golf simulators, and areas for jujitsu and healthy heart classes, among other things. Buglak said he would like to see CPR classes taught there as well.
“Lots of things besides sports,” he said.
Buglak mentioned having a “turf floor” that would look like a parquet floor but would be better for the athletes.
He said he envisions bringing various kinds of tournaments into the center, including whiffleball tournaments. He grew up in Philadelphia and said a lot of the people who were associated with its old-school rivalries have moved here, or would come here to participate in various rivalry-based tournaments.
“It would bring traffic to this area in the offseason,” he said.
Buglak said the center would bring more people, revenue and jobs to the airport. He said he is already thinking beyond his initial concept, saying the airport has another 15 acres that could be built upon. He imagines a physical therapy section with doctors in the event anything happens during athletic competition.
“I have a lot of ideas, and I’m trying to get the state involved. I think there is more down the road,” he said.
Buglak said he has been meeting with representatives of the DRBA, Cape May County and Lower Township and so far has been receiving nothing but support for the project. He said he is trying to find out what those entities would want from Aviation Sports LLC before the company gets engineers involved in a design.
He said the current project would come in at about $3 million to $4.5 million depending on what the final plans call for. He said the domed portion of the project would take five to six months to put up. He said if the company has approvals by the end of this year it could have the center up and running by this time in 2024.
Letters of Support
Attached to the aerial view of the proposed complex, provided by Morey, were 10 letters of support, including from the Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce, the athletics director at Lower Cape May Regional High School, Archbishop Ryan High School in Philadelphia, RH Studios Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Philadelphia, Seaport Stays in Wildwood, Ocean City High School (baseball), the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Philadelphia and Coast Elite Realty.
The Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce supports the center, saying it would increase stays in hotels and motels and be a boost to the hospitality industry in general. LCMR Athletics Director Erik Simonsen said the center would benefit youth of all ages, providing sports activities in all seasons, and would bring in events, clinics and leagues.
Ed Hughes, an administrative officer at Archbishop Ryan High School, said he is a homeowner in Wildwood Crest and referred to a similar facility based in New Jersey that has only grown since 2001. Ron Gerhardt, a former baseball coach at Archbishop Ryan who is now an Ocean City resident, also expressed his support. Michael Lake, a former baseball coach at Archbishop Ryan and LaSalle University and a friend of Buglak, wrote about his character and the center as a revenue enhancer and job creator.
Rick Henry from RH Studios Brazilian Jiu Jitsu supported it as a location for teaching his discipline. He said people have used Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for weight loss and other types of self-improvement, and he said it benefits those on the autism spectrum, including through socialization and body awareness.
Lauren MacDonald of Seaport Stays, accommodations in Wildwood, talked about the benefits of a center for active-lifestyle residents and visitors alike. Andrew Bristol, the head baseball coach at Ocean City High School and a friend of the developer, talked about the benefits to the community, including enabling children to train and play sports in the offseason.
Emily McNicholas, co-founder of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in northeast Philadelphia, wrote in support of Buglak as a contributor to her charity. Daniel Higman, the broker/owner of Coastal Elite Realty, supported the project as a tournament venue, particularly in the offseason.
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