Fort Mill Times

Lake Wylie residents urged to join push for park plan

Changes have been made to this original Crowders Creek park plan in Lake Wylie. However, it still includes three multipurpose fields and baseball fields.
Changes have been made to this original Crowders Creek park plan in Lake Wylie. However, it still includes three multipurpose fields and baseball fields. File illustration

Lake Wylie Athletic Association and planners of a park plan near Crowders Creek are organizing a community-wide effort to urge residents to attend York County Council meetings to push for approval of the York County Sports Complex.

“Our goal is to get people (dressed in blue) to the next three county council meetings,” said Ron Domurat Jr., planning committee chairman for York County Sports Complex.

Lake Wylie business leaders, residents and tournament partners are expected to speak at council meetings Nov. 16 and Dec. 7. Council members are scheduled to make a decision Dec. 21 on whether to allocate $4.9 million in hospitality tax money for a sports complex on property the county owns on Crowders Creek. Council members will also consider a $3.2 million plan for new fields in Fort Mill. The hospitality tax fund has about $6.2 million, bringing in $2 million annually from food and drink sales in unincorporated areas, such as Lake Wylie.

At the Nov. 2 meeting, Frank Keefe, owner of Bagel Boat in Lake Wylie, said the new park is an equitable project for restaurants that collect the tax. Most of the money allocated so far through hospitality tax revenue has been for festival promotion or tourism groups in other parts of the county.

“We don’t really benefit from the tax money that we collect, in terms of the hospitality tax,” Keefe said.

Hospitality tax projects must demonstrate they generate tourism. While baseball and multipurpose fields at the recreation complex in Lake Wylie would be used for recreational play during the week, the main pitch from organizers is for tournaments.

“This is a development that will bring in thousands of non-York County residents a year to participate in tournaments in the Lake Wylie area,” Keefe said.

Winston Martinez, a LWAA soccer coach, said the 100 businesses guaranteeing sponsorship and other financial support, along with a 1,000-signature petition, show how much the site is needed. The park could generate tax revenue beyond hospitality tax, he said.

“The park is an amenity that would increase property value,” Martinez said. “Our assessed value would go up, more tax revenue, more tax base for the county. Not to mention you can organize it, by having summer concerts, carnivals.”

Resident Richard DeFreitas called the park “a prime opportunity for Lake Wylie to invest in our community.”

Mary Williams asked council memberws to make best use of property it already owns.

“We already have the land for it,” she said. “Now we’ve got to figure out how to make that land work for Lake Wylie.”

The county is concerned there isn’t enough hospitality dollars to go around. Earlier this year, council members approved allocating $1 million for the water park addition at the Clover School District and Upper Palmetto YMCA aquatic center under construction near Crowders Creek Elementary School. The combined cost of the pending Crowders Creek park and Fort Mill fields is $8.1 million. Plus, there’s a film studio project waiting on a $1 million recommendation from the county hospitality tax advisory committee and other project requests expected.

Bobby Walker, spearheading an effort to bring an agritourism events center to York County, plans to submit a formal request next year.

“There’s lots of projects out there,” he told council members. “Let’s don’t give away all the pie so everybody can get at least a little slice.”

Festival promotion

As the hospitality tax advisory group receives more large, capital project requests, members are taking a closer look at marketing money for festivals. Particularly, whether festivals in cities and towns should receive as much or any money from the group funded by unincorporated dollars.

Council members approved a new application form for marketing money that puts greater requirements on festivals, such as the South Carolina Strawberry Festival in Fort Mill or Summerfest in York, to prove financial impact to unincorporated areas.

“If you’re asking do we want to put a preference to things that generate Htax dollars in unincorporated areas, then yes,” said Councilman Michael Johnson.

Council members stopped short of asking the advisory group to disqualify festivals in municipalities. Councilman Bruce Henderson said “if we don’t consider everyone, we are creating division.”

“Everyone who comes to Summerfest is not strictly citizens of this municipality,” he said. “I mean they come from all over.”

Councilman Robert Winkler also used Summerfest as an example of the type of tourism the county wants to promote.

“There’s no way you can say a town of 8,000 in York hosts a one-day event of 35,000-40,000 people, and it doesn’t have an impact in unincorporated areas somewhere,” he said.

The advisory group is trying to determine whether a scoring system for projects, which would determine final funding amounts, should be based on overall tourism or specific economic impact for the restaurants or vendors that pay the tax.

Councilman William “Bump” Roddey said exact impact in unincorporated areas from large municipal events would be impossible to quantify. But, he said, he has no doubt there is an impact.

“The Strawberry Festival, people come from all over,” he said. “It’s pretty much downtown Fort Mill. But I’m sure they’re stopping somewhere along the way inside York County spending money somewhere.”

The next round of applications are due in the spring.

John Marks: 803-831-8166