Lancaster County residents may get to vote this fall on whether to fund $8 million for recreation improvements, mostly for the Indian Land area.
County staff asked their recreation department for a list of projects for a possible bond referendum. There isn’t a set figure, but recreation staff worked out one estimate at $8 million. A figure that would increase costs to residents by $6 for every $100,000 in property value, for 20 years.
Lancaster County Council’s administration committee will start the discussion March 15. That group would make a recommendation, followed by the full council deciding whether to put a bond issue question on the ballot and for how much.
Hal Hiott, director of the county’s recreation department, didn’t take long when asked by his administrator for a list of needs.
“We’ve got many needs,” Hiott said. “Many needs. But we gave them a list.”
A new recreation center in the Indian Land area is one. It could be a remodel of the current site, or purchasing land elsewhere. A soccer facility on 10 county-owned acres beside Harrisburg Elementary School is another.
Other improvements include soccer facilities in Heath Springs near Andrew Jackson High School, work on the Lindsey Pettus Greenway and Barr Street School Auditorium in Lancaster and outdoor restrooms, landscaping and parking lot work at the Buford rec center.
A new recreation center in Indian Land could cost $3 million. The Harrisburg site could be another $1 million, plus up to $500,000 more in money initially slated for the Buford rec center. The Indian Land projects sit on top of the list, Hiott said, because of the tremendous community growth there.
“For the bond, from a staff standpoint, the Indian Land recreation center and the development of the Harrisburg project is imperative because of the growth we have in that area,” he said.
Recreation leaders would like to have a new Indian Land rec center in a more centrally located part of the panhandle, but moving it likely would mean a center no larger than the one now since much of the cost would go to buying the land. Renovation and expansion is a way to increase capacity.
The Harrisburg site then would focus mainly on soccer fields. Soccer is booming in Lancaster County “and it’s growing every year,” Hiott said.
“We’ve got right at 760 kids in our spring season,” he said. “We actually have more in our fall season because we aren’t competing with baseball and softball. In the spring we’ll have 850 or so.”
Soccer fields have the advantage of being multipurpose. Puting them at Harrisburg, so close to the county and state line, also has the advantage of letting non-county residents help pay for county services.
“On weekends we could host tournaments,” Hiott said. “Then you get the tourism, people spending their money. The come to play and they’ll buy gas, burgers, stay at a hotel, whatever.”
All of the projects, even whether there is a bond at all, depends on a decision from county council. The plans don’t hinge on the Indian Land incorporation vote March 27.
“That’s not going to effect what we’re doing,” Hiott said. “They would still pay county taxes if it were voted on. That’s just like the City of Lancaster is we had a project there. They still pay city or county taxes.”
If Indian Land does vote to become a town, it could impact one revenue source the county uses for improvements.
“Now that will effect some hospitality tax money,” Hiott said.
Jane Tanner, president of the Indian Land Action Council, until new members are voted in Thursday, said she supports recreation improvements in Indian Land. She won’t support a bond referendum to make them happen.
“We lack everything here that they have in other places, and I’m sick of it,” Tanner said. “They’ve got money, plenty of money, to put into our recreation, and they won’t do it.”
With so much growth in the Indian Land area, Tanner said developers are ready and willing to make recreation space available when building homes or commercial projects. She points to property the made available through the Avondale development near her home. Early last year council looked into a recreation site, but momentum cooled with reports of a nearly $15 million price tag.
“They got the land free,” Tanner said. “They drew up these nice plans. They went ballistic because they said it was way too expensive.”
Tanner agrees recreation is a major need in the panhandle. She just doesn’t want an extra charge to pay for it when, she says, the county could do more.
“We have got nothing up here,” she said. “We need recreation up here.”
Unrelated to the possible bond referendum, long-range recreation planning focuses on the panhandle area. There have been conversations on a large-scale sports complex somewhere along the U.S. 521 corridor. A site that could be 100 acres or more.
“This would be similar to Cherry Park (in Rock Hill) or something like that,” Hiott said.
That project could be a decade off still. For now recreation staff focuses on more pressing needs. Needs a bond could help meet.
“That’s going to have to be a council decision there,” Hiott said.