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YMCA/sports complex will benefit all

Posted: January 17, 2012 11:10 a.m.
Updated: January 18, 2012 5:00 a.m.

For several months I watched the pro and con actions concerning the Camden Sports Complex. As the information seemed to be so different, I decided to research the topic myself. As I researched the argument against the Camden Sports Complex, it evolved from one reason to another and then another. First, it would compete with local business, then it was too large an expenditure. I’ve witnessed multiple petitions, speaking at public forums in city council, and public displays of booing and heckling at the speakers for the Sports Complex. I stood, listened and watched as some have falsely claimed that our taxes will rise. I have listened to others say the city cannot afford this project, or that the city does not need a Rhame Arena replacement. I’ve even been told that residents in the Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) district will have their homes taken away, which is entirely untrue since there are no private residences in the TIF district.

I’ve read multiple letters to this paper against the Sports Complex. I’ve watched and read as these individuals have hurled insults at our elected officials. I’ve watched and read arguments presented vehemently against the Sports Complex by an unusual number of non-residents of the city.

The next argument was the improper use of hospitality taxes. It claimed it was illegal despite numerous other cities using the hospitality tax for sports complexes. The argument has further changed to how it should be applied to “my favorite project.”

With the establishment of several groups and their ever-changing reasons to stop the Sports Complex, one has proposed to sue the city. The city has stated it will defend its position. So, instead of spending your tax dollars for the betterment of Camden, your tax dollars will be spent in handling lawsuits. And, during this process, the argument against the Sports Complex continues to change. The latest petition wants to block the new Sports Complex and appoint a second commission to propose alternative plans. It is obvious that the objective has always been to stop the Sports Complex and the YMCA. I would not be surprised if the argument for blocking the complex changes again.

My wife and I own a local business, a hospitality industry business. It would be to our personal benefit for the hospitality tax to be used effectively. I’ve researched how Sports Complexes in other areas have benefited the tourism industry. I’ve also looked at overnight stays versus day outings. I believe that the Sports Complex will be of more economic benefit than anything else I have seen proposed or discussed. Each dollar spent by a sports tourist can multiply in its economic effect as much as eight times.

Participants in weekend sports tournaments stay overnight and in some cases multiple nights. These guests eat two to three meals a day in the city. They purchase gas. They bring family members who go shopping between games. They represent 48-hour tourists. They don’t drive into town to visit one location or attend one event, and then drive out in just a few hours.

It has been proposed that we have a third party operate and maintain the Sports Complex, just as the state-owned Springdale Race Course and county-owned South Carolina Equine Park are operated by non-profit organizations. In this case it might be the non-profit YMCA of Columbia, an organization rich with experience and success. One major advantage is that the YMCA will equip, operate and maintain the facility.

The Camden Sports Complex will be a seven-day-a-week, year-round operation which benefits all of us. It will create jobs, provide a positive influence on our youth, offer a safe haven for young and old to participate in healthy activities, and bring tourists to our town. The Sports Complex fulfills a commitment made in the city’s vision plan.

I firmly support and strongly urge the building of the Camden Sports Complex as proposed by our City Council.



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