The committee behind a new sports complex in Lake Wylie still has some work to do, promising to get more information ahead of a Nov. 8 vote that will make or break the park plan.
“We know it’s the right thing to do for the community,” said committee member Kim Trainer.
The group held a public meeting Aug. 24. More are scheduled Sept. 28 and Oct. 26. In the meantime, committee members plan to update tax estimates and work through other questions brought up by the community, such as which groups get to use the new fields and when.
“We can iron all that out,” said committee member Ron Domurat. “What we have to do right now is get the park.”
If voters approve a new special tax district in November, it will fund up to $7 million in construction and an annual $400,000 for operations. The move also triggers a $2.45 million contribution from the county hospitality tax fund, approved by York County Council on condition of the tax district. The park would be built on county-owned property along Crowders Creek, in the Paddlers Cove community.
Russ Partin, who helping plan the park for the committee, said May would be the best guess for groundbreaking if voters pick the park plan. Construction would take up to 12 months. It would include multipurpose and baseball/softball fields along with basketball and tennis courts, trails and other features.
“We want to build a park we can be proud of,” Partin said.
The public meetings are designed to take questions and provide details, but committee members aren’t shy about pitching the plan. LeAnn Lowrey spoke at the first one of moving to the area in 2000 as a mom in a small apartment, with few options for getting outside to play. Trainer gave a similar account, saying her children may not still be so young when a park is complete, but someone else’s will.
“I don’t know their names, but every time I get discouraged I remember those people,” Trainer said about the kids who will get to use the park if it is built.
“They are yet to come.”
Perry Johnston dates his interest in local youth sports back at least as far as the 1962 Bethel Red Sox. Years after playing on that championship team, Johnston was elected to York County Council. Prior to a recreation tax there was $125,000 annually being sent out for recreation needs countywide. Johnston worked to improve recreation funding, but those efforts still haven’t met the greatest need locally, he said.
“During all this time it’s just been about dirt,” he said. “We just can’t find dirt for young kids to play on.”
Tom Smith, who followed Johnston on Council, helped the county set aside land for the park and still works, as does Johnston, with the park committee. Even with about $1 million being dispersed now by the county for recreation, Smith said, the money goes to municipal parks and recreation departments. Money for the district including Lake Wylie and Clover, goes to Clover.
“It doesn’t really help the need from the growth in this area,” Smith said.
Then comes the issue of hospitality tax. Charged on food and drink unincorporated areas, the biggest contributors annually are the Carowinds corridor in Fort Mill, restaurants in Lake Wylie and the Baxter area. Lake Wylie leaders and restaurant owners for years said more hospitality tax revenue needs to be spent in Lake Wylie where so much of it is generated.
Along with $1 million already put into the aquatic center under construction along Crowders Creek, the $2.45 million for a park would be an answer to the questions so many have asked since the tax began in 2007, Smith said.
“If it passes, we will have gotten back what we put in,” he said. “So we can stop complaining.”
Committee members will take more questions at the upcoming meetings. Both are 7 p.m. at Oakridge Middle School.
More on the park is available online at lwsports.org under the “sportsplex” tab.