Leaders of park plans in Fort Mill and Lake Wylie are pitching different approaches for funding in hopes York County Council will approve their proposals Dec. 21.
The Lake Wylie group wants to build a 50-acre sports complex on Crowders Creek.
“We’ll put the decision back to the residents of Lake Wylie, because if they want this park, they’re going to have to pay some tax,” said Ron Domurat, planning committee chairman for the York County Sports Complex.
Domurat presented the latest park plan to York County Council at its Dec. 7 meeting. Original park plans were for $8.5 million. Sensing resistance, the committee reduced features to a $6.9 million park, asking for $4.9 million from county hospitality tax revenue. The county hospitality tax committee recommended the full $4.9 million, but the county finance and operations committee recommended half that.
Domurat went with the $2.45 million figure in his pitch to council, which should decide Dec. 21 how much, if any, hospitality tax to allocate toward the project. Domurat said the $8 million plan is possible if residents will support a special tax district similar to the voter-approved fire tax district approved in 2009 for Bethel Volunteer Fire Department.
“We’ve got a little bit of work ahead of us to do,” Domurat said.
The tax district would create about $6 million toward construction and $350,000 toward operations cost through a 10-year bond. Domurat said the owner of a $250,000 home would pay $41 per year. The charge on a $250,000 business would be $62 per year.
School district pitches plan
In Fort Mill, leaders took a different approach.
The Fort Mill School District asked for $3.2 million in hospitality tax money for athletic fields beside Riverview Elementary School. As in Lake Wylie, planners said fields would be used mainly for tournaments to promote tourism, a requirement for hospitality tax money that comes from a 2 percent charge on food and drink in unincorporated areas the county.
“Obviously, these folks are going to be coming from out-of-town,” said Patrick White, board chairman for Fort Mill schools.
The Fort Mill plan also received full recommendation from one county group and half from another. Leaders still pitched their full asking amount from council on Dec. 7. White said it’s “a little unorthodox for a school district to be in the tourism business,” but argued the district plan makes sense. It bought 56 acres, using about 30 acres for Riverview Elementary School. Leaders tried to work with the town of Fort Mill in 2013 for shared recreation space, but the town had property available elsewhere through a residential development agreement.
“At that time it just didn’t make sense,” White said.
The district spent $3.2 million purchasing and making property site improvements. Now the district has soccer, lacrosse and other groups looking to partner with it if fields are constructed.
“This has been an identified need,” said Tommy Schmolze, district assistant superintendent.
The park plans
The Lake Wylie complex would have three multipurpose and three baseball/softball fields. In its firstyear, planners say the park could host 40 tournaments and 1,500 teams, or about 34,000 people. A full-time park manager would be hired. Partnerships are in place to host football, soccer, disc golf, baseball, softball and lacrosse events. Local recreation programs could use the fields during the weekdays.
“Weekends are all dedicated tournament play, tourism play,” Domurat said.
A petition signed by 15 percent of eligible voters in the proposed tax district is needed. Domurat estimates starting a March petition drive, followed by a June vote and groundbreaking in August. With that timeline, construction could begin March and fields ready by August 2017.
The Riverview site would have four lighted, artificial turf fields. Early events include a Southeast regional girls lacrosse tournament. Tourism-generating tournaments would have exclusive weekend and summer use, along with weekday opportunities during the school year. Planners estimate more than 75,000 tourists the first three years, generating $8.5 million in tourism dollars.
A 50-team tournament, planners said, would generate about $180,000 by conservative estimates.
Planners for both projects point to those figures to show how many people will come to spend money in restaurants, hotels and other sites in York County.
“We can prove the tourism,” Domurat said. “We have the partnerships. We have the interest in the area.”
Elizabeth Hartley, business owner in Lake Wylie, told council a park along Crowders Creek would be a “wonderful strategic move and a great start” when coupled with the nearby Clover School District/Upper Palmetto YMCA aquatic center. Council already approved $1 million in hospitality tax money for its water park.
“Now we have the opportunity to build upon that and get even greater return,” she said. “This is an investment, not a gift.”
John Marks: 803-831-8166