Fort Mill Times

Springs and Co. makes generous offer

You don't have to know the complete history of Fort Mill to realize what the name Springs means to the town. The once ubiquitous Springs manufacturing empire now employs only a handful of people in the lone remaining downtown facility, but the presence of the family that drove the development of Fort Mill remains strong.

One of the more tangible reminders is the Leroy Springs Recreation Complex, which has been a virtual living gift to the town for more than 30 years by serving as a hub for youth and adult sports and providing community center space. Now, Leroy Springs and Co., which manages the complex - along with golf courses and the Anne Springs Close Greenway - wants to make it an actual gift by donating it to the Town of Fort Mill.

The complex includes a newly expanded weight room, competition-size indoor pool, basketball and handball courts, tennis courts, playing fields for baseball, softball, soccer and football, a catering facility and rooms for fitness and enrichment classes - and more. It also houses preschool and after school programs and offers summer camps.

Leroy Springs and Co., which plans to retain management of the golf courses and the greenway, announced the offer late last week and town officials have just begun discussing the details. The initial reactions were favorable. Mayor Danny Funderburk, a lifelong Fort Mill resident, seemed eager to get the town council focused on finding a way to make it a viable option.

It's a compelling offer and we hope it gets serious consideration. However, there are issues to work through.

For example, it means the town's recreation department, which now has just several parks to maintain, will have to expand to include the staff of the complex, which Leroy Springs and Co. estimates has a market value of more than $10 million.

Although Leroy Springs and Co. has offered a financial incentive to ease the transition, the town will have to come up with a plan to ensure it can afford to run the complex and its various sports and recreation programs and that might mean fewer programs as well as increased user fees in a precarious economy. In other words, it will have to run the complex more like a business and less like a nonprofit.

As exciting as the idea is that the Town of Fort Mill can, practically overnight, have a comprehensive municipal recreation program on par with Tega Cay's, it's going to take careful planning, particularly if it impacts the preschool and after school programs so many residents depend on.

We hope it can all be worked out. Fort Mill has grown larger than anyone could have expected since the complex was built and it's certainly time it had the amenities most towns this size offer.