It's been nearly two years since Lake Wylie residents agreed to pay for a sports park. But it still doesn't have one.
May 8 marks 18 months since Lake Wylie voters approved a new recreation tax on the promise of a new sports park. It would have baseball and multipurpose fields, a playground, walking trail, picnic shelter, dog park, basketball and tennis courts, and a concession stand.
Yet not only has dirt gone unturned in the batter's boxes, it hasn't turned on construction itself.
So what's happening? Plenty, leaders say.
"I used to give some of the board members a hard time," said Ed Lindsey, one of five Lake Wylie Parks and Recreation District board members. "Come on, are you ever going to do anything? I'm on here now and I see, oh, there are a lot of steps. A lot of things have to happen."
If construction contract negotiations go well, York County Council could approve the contract May 21. Then a final design could be in place within 60 days, and construction could begin rapidly.
“Hopefully, they’ll be moving some dirt maybe by the end of summer,” said recreation district board member Tom Smith, who also led the effort more than a decade ago for York County to secure 50 acres on Crowders Creek for the park.
The county is using a "progressive design build" approach on the new park, designed to get it built faster once construction begins. Smith said the Lake Wylie park will be the first built this way by the county. York County does not have a parks and recreation department.
"This allows work to begin while the project is going through final design," said Trish Startup, York County spokesperson. "It is also a collaborative effort with designer-contractor-county that also saves time and money."
In March, Council voted to negotiate a construction contract with J.D. Goodrum and Woolpert Engineering, narrowed from eight bids.
"They've probably built maybe 30 parks within a couple hours of here," Smith said.
While final design work hasn't begun, Smith said he expects the completed park to be similar to what residents voted on 2016.
"I don't anticipate it being any different," he said.
The special tax fund has about $3.6 million. Only $120,000 has been spent, on initial engineering, surveying, a traffic analysis and related pre-construction work. Smith said "everything's workable, manageable," and there haven't been problems identified in borings and soil testing.
A total for the park hasn't been determined.
"Cost estimates are still being finalized," Startup said.
Prior to the 2016 vote, the committee pushing for a park envisioned a $9.45 million project. The new recreation tax would pay for $7 million in construction, along with ongoing operating costs at about $400,000. The county approved a separate $2.45 million from its hospitality tax fund.
Once the park is built, the county and advisory board can decide what to do with the recurring revenue stream. They could significantly lower the tax to enough for park operations, identify more recreation projects in Lake Wylie for funding, or a combination of both.
"The estimate of how long it will take to pay off the bond will probably shrink because there’s more people in the area," Lindsey said.
Both Smith and Lindsey board terms expire June 30. Smith said he won’t apply for a new term, but he’ll stay on until a replacement is named.
"I'm as anxious as anybody to see something going on," Smith said. "I believe we're in good hands."
Lindsey said he has applied to serve again.
"Obviously, we're all excited about the day kids can get out there on the fields and play ball," he said said.
John Marks: 803-326-4315; @JohnFMTimes