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YMCA a rare opportunity

Posted: December 20, 2011 12:30 p.m.
Updated: December 21, 2011 5:00 a.m.

There has been much discussion about whether a sports complex is a legitimate use of the hospitality tax. That question has been answered through legal opinions and by the simple observation that this same tax has been used in other municipalities to build sports complexes. Whether we agree or not, it has been deemed legal.  However, is it an ethical use of tourism dollars? Is it really tourism? 

 Anyone with children involved in sports knows good and well that many of these sports involve travel around the state. During these travels, families pay for hotels, they pay for meals, they shop, and they may even stop in at a historic site or two. 

 I keep up with news from Greenville, where I lived for five years before coming back to Camden.  t was recently reported that a youth sports tournament next year is likely to bring $10 million to that area, and that story is one of many across the nation. Are we Greenville? No. Do we wish to be Greenville? No. But is this tourism?  Absolutely.  Even our own S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism considers it as such. 

 Now, will we transform ourselves into a sports tourism epicenter with one sports complex? No, but no one does.  The winners are those who decide to take steps, collectively over time, in the direction toward capturing more dollars from an already existing market in this field of tourism. And so, just as tourists invest in the local economy when they come to see our historic sites or equestrian events, so too will be the case with tournaments that can be held at this sports facility. 

 In addition, wouldn’t it be nice if our tourism investments also resulted in something every Camden citizen has the need and opportunity to use? Certainly, that would be an added bonus. For example, I love and enjoy the horse races. They may be considered tourist attractions, but they are also utilized by Camden citizens. Because of their benefit to tourism, the city should definitely seek ways to further capitalize on this excellent aspect of our culture. But as much as we love our horses, we cannot argue that every Camden citizen has a fundamental need to be involved with horses on a daily basis. Likewise, we cannot argue that every Camden citizen has the opportunity to access horses on a daily basis. 

 That is why the project before us is so unique, because health and wellness is a fundamental need in the lives of all people, and as offered by the YMCA, it will be a fundamental need that every Camden citizen has the opportunity to access, young and old, rich and poor. It can tap into an existing and legitimate field of tourism, all the while benefiting Camden citizens on a daily basis. Rarely does a council have an opportunity to choose a direction that can be this holistically beneficial to an entire community.

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