Hours after the Clover School District received $1 million in county hospitality tax funding for a Lake Wylie water park, the Fort Mill School District made its own pitch.
The Fort Mill School District wants to put two international size and two tournament size synthetic turf fields on up to 26 acres at Riverview Elementary School. Spratt Fields would be used to draw tourism, district leaders say, similar to Cherry Park or Manchester Meadows in Rock Hill.
“Our goal is to make it attractive locally, but also to draw people from outside,” said Tommy Schmolze, assistant superintendent in charge of facilities.
The project will cost $6.45 million. District leaders presented a plan to the county hospitality tax advisory committee on Tuesday where the district pays half, the other half coming from the hospitality tax fund. The committee won’t have a recommendation until at least June. York County Council has final say on funding.
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Spratt Fields will include two multipurpose fields at 75 by 100 yards, and two at 65 by 100. The district has pledges from club soccer and lacrosse programs wanting to play there.
“The key there is multipurpose,” Schmolze said. “Whatever you can play on a turf field, they’ll be able to play.”
Tournament and rental fees would go toward maintenance. The schools would use the fields during and immediately after school, with outside programs coming in for evening play. Weekends would be geared to larger tournaments. The district and town recreation department spoke a couple years back about a possible partnership, but current plans for the fields don’t involve town recreation.
Pressed on the impact to tourism and county partnerships, district leaders noted the location so close to Riverwalk in Rock Hill and multiple I-77 interchanges.
“This is literally the gateway into Fort Mill,” school board Chairman Patrick White said. “There’s a lot of connectivity there.”
Superintendent Chuck Epps said there was a field put in when Tega Cay Elementary School was built and the May 5 bond referendum includes money for four new school sites, but there aren’t any other district plans for a large recreation facility like Spratt Fields.
Schmolze envisions an “all-weather tournament destination” with enough fields and a durable enough surface to host large, regional events. As the parent of young athletes, Schmolze attests to the impact Spratt Fields could have on nearby restaurants and businesses.
“I spend every weekend traveling to other places, spending my money in other counties to support my children,” he said.
The district estimates the facility will bring 75,873 tourists the first three years, and $8.5 million in tourism revenue. The fields will have lights, along with restrooms and concession areas.
Club partners will be ready to book events as soon as the facility begins construction.
“The sooner the better for us,” Schmolze said. “We need to let people know they can come here to play.”
Joe Romenick, procurement officer for the district, said his group likely would use the same surface and possibly installers as when Fort Mill and Nation Ford high schools transitioned to a synthetic surface with the most recent bond package. The busy season for turn installation being summer, Romenick sees potential in starting this fall.
Construction could last six months.
“It gives them the ability to go ahead and get it done for us,” he said.
Recreation facilities sit at the top of the priority list for hospitality tax dollars. On Monday night, Council voted 4-3 to put $1 million toward a water park plan being built by the Clover School District and operated by the Upper Palmetto YMCA. The pitch there was that an outdoor pool and water park would help draw large swim tournaments. That facility should open next year.
Hospitality tax money comes from a 2 percent tax on food and drink in unincorporated areas. The money must be spent on tourism projects, which can range from sports complex construction to festival and event promotion.
John Marks • 803-547-2353