The York County Council approved $1 million in hospitality tax Monday toward a water park at a Lake Wylie aquatics center that leaders said would be a “one-of-a-kind facility.”
The water park next to Crowders Creek Elementary School on S.C. 274 would be part of an aquatics center to include two 25-yard indoor swimming pools and a 50-meter outdoor pool for competitions. The center is scheduled to open in summer 2016.
“We think the 50-meter pool will be a big hit with tourism in the county,” said Moe Bell, executive director of the Upper Palmetto YMCA, which will operate the center to be built by the Clover School District. “There’s not an outdoor 50-meter pool within 100 miles of Charlotte.”
County Council members approved the funding by a 4-3 vote. Council members Britt Blackwell, Michael Johnson and Christi Cox voted against the motion, and members Bruce Henderson, Robert Winkler, Chad Williams and William “Bump” Roddey voted for it.
YMCA and Clover School District leaders said they needed a decision on the hospitality tax money by late this week, when the district plans to open bids. The center was approved by voters in a Clover School District bond referendum package in March 2014.
The district has planned about $14 million for the center, including the two indoor pools and a fitness center.
Clover Superintendent Marc Sosne said the district also has committed to build the $1.8 million Olympic-size 50-meter outdoor pool, designed for competitive events.
The outdoor pool, proposed by community members, was not part of the bond, Sosne said, but the school board plans to build it with leftover bond money or surplus capital funds.
The outdoor water park adjacenter to the 50-mter pool, estimated to cost $1.7 million, would be an additional feature paid for by the YMCA, intended to increase membership.
YMCA leaders say they have been raising donations for months and have about $400,000 pledged toward the project.
Bell told County Council members the center would host an estimated six weekend swim meets each year, with an estimated economic impact of $392,000 per meet, according to a Clemson University study.
Bell said that amounts to $23,000 in tax revenue per meet, which would add up to about $4 million over 25 years.
Clover YMCA Director Linda McCallum said the center will allow the YMCA’s Rays swim team to thrive. “It will allow this area to develop world-class swimmers and even Olympic medalists,” McCallum said.
“It’s a one-of-a-kind facility,” Bell said. “This will be the preferred facility” for regional swim events. He told County Council members that some events could draw as many as 1,100 people to the area.
Some council members questioned Bell’s figures, saying the Rock Hill Aquatics Center doesn’t generate that much tourism. They also said they felt rushed in making a decision and wanted more time to consider the project and weigh it against other requests.
“Tourism has to drive these decisions,” said Johnson, who said hospitality tax money is required by state law go to projects that generate tourism. “Yes, it’s a benefit to the community, but tourism has to be considered.”
The hospitality tax money comes from a 2 percent charge on food and drinks in unincorporated areas of the county, and must be spent on tourism-generating projects.
Bell said the project would not happen without the hospitality tax funds, because the cost of adding the water park later would be “cost-prohibitive.”
Inside the center, one pool would hold warm water for seniors, water aerobics and swim lessons, while the second pool would be for swim team practices, meets and competitive events sponsored by the YMCA.
The center would not require county funding for maintenance, Bell said. The YMCA will handle maintenance costs below $10,000, with the school district covering maintenance in excess of that amount.
Jennifer Becknell • 803-329-4077