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Equine center seeks Camden’s help

Posted: January 10, 2013 6:48 p.m.
Updated: January 11, 2013 5:00 a.m.

The S.C. Equine Center, located east of Camden near I-20 exit 101, is looking for some help to expand from the city of Camden.

Tuesday, Laura Thiel Shull, chair of the S.C. Equine Promotion Coalition, outlined the facility’s plans, how the city might support future projects and how that might financially impact Camden to Camden City Council.

“The park was proudly opened in 2009 and has continue to grow every year since,” Shull said. “But, we are currently limited in our continued growth because of the existing facility as it is now. Our economic impact has been great, but it could be even greater.”

Shull said the American Horse Council in Washington, D.C., uses a formula to determine the direct impact horses engaged in competition have at the site. She said it assigns $150 per horse and then triples that number based on the average number of people attending the horse. It then multiplies that figure by three again, which is the average number of days for competition. Shull said the formula includes impact in terms of accommodations -- including differing lengths of stay and occupancy rates depending on events -- and restaurants.

“The S.C. Equine Park last year welcomes 3,500 horses. That’s the highest number since our opening. So, using the formula, the estimate for activity in the S.C. Equine Park for 2012 is (more than) $4.6 million,” Shull said.

Shull went on to present a request for the use of hospitality taxes to construct a second covered arena at the center.

“We believe this is the time to aggressively pursue our next capital investment,” Shull said, adding that she believes a second covered arena would increase bookings each year. “The estimated cost of that would be somewhere between $800,000 to $1 million. In order to make that a more manageable number, we would like to proceed in phases.”

Shull said the first phase would encompass engineering, design and site preparation work.

“In the package I will give you, there are more specific numbers for Phase I and beyond. We are aware that there are many great projects in Camden and Kershaw County for you to financially support, but believe as our numbers do show (that) ours provides the greatest return on your dollars,” Shull said.

She noted that Kershaw County Council has awarded $250,000 toward the project.

Councilman Walter Long said there are hospitality tax funds available for such a project. Mayor Tony Scully asked about possible linkages to youth mentoring.

“Will there be -- as I hope there will be because I listen to the people all over the city all day long -- when we proceed with this, some kind of mentoring program for the at-risk kids?”

Shull said that was a difficult question to answer because of the way the foundation is structured.

“We do not put on any events or hire any help aside from the two gentlemen we have working full time, and some other part-time help that comes in. We do not organize any events, so we do not have a say in who gets hired to work the events or who doesn’t,” Shull said.

She said the foundation’s “hands are a little bit tied” in that respect, but would be happy to work with any groups that it can.

Scully reiterated that he would like to see the whole community “buy-in” to the project.

“Because it is so central to our whole way of life,” the mayor said. “I think it is the most important thing that we have. I have heard people say that there are people here that just care about horses -- they don’t care about our children. That is the most extreme example -- and it might be true -- but I just though there could be a way of tying those two together.”

In other business, council unanimously:

• passed first reading of an ordinance amending and restating the city of Camden’s purchasing policies and procedures;

• passed first reading of three ordinances setting final R-15 zoning classification for three recently annexed properties on Welsh Street;

• resolved to support the Municipal Association of South Carolina’s 2013 legislative agenda;

• resolved to provide a hazard-free work environment through the establishment and implementation of loss control policies and procedures;

• resolved to approve an amendment to a wastewater treatment agreement with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, the Central Midlands and Santee-Lynches councils of government, Palmett Utilities Inc., Richland County and Kershaw County;

• accepted two façade grant applications with city fund matches totaling $4,100 for front and rear improvements to the Venue on Broad Street.

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