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Arnett Muldrow recommendations include replacing Rhame Arena

Posted: February 4, 2014 5:34 p.m.
Updated: February 5, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Amidst re-introducing the city of Camden’s new “Classically Carolina” slogan and logos, representatives from marketing firm Arnett Muldrow made a few recommendations concerning several “hot” items facing Camden. Among those recommendations are replacing Rhame Arena, going ahead with a proposed “road diet” for a portion of Broad Street, getting a hotel into downtown Camden and moving slowly on the former Maxway department store property.

The recommendations came as part of Arnett Muldrow’s final recommendations in its tourism marketing and branding work for the city of Camden during a public presentation Jan. 27 at the Robert Mills Courthouse. On hand were Arnett Muldrow’s Tripp Muldrow and Bob Brookover, director of the Clemson International Institute for Tourism Research and Development.

Among the early recommendations, the firm proposes razing Rhame Arena, located at the corner of Broad and Bull streets, and replacing it with a meeting and activity center. In December 2012, city voters turned down a proposal to build a multi-million sports complex at the T-intersection of Rutledge and Campbell streets. The complex would have replaced Rhame Arena, built with hospitality tax (HTAX) funds and be managed by a third party, likely the YMCA of Columbia.

Brookover indicated a slightly different approach.

“This would be a multipurpose facility,” he said. “Rhame obviously shows its age. A downtown meeting and activity center would create space where events could be held. Dillon has a facility that’s a wellness center, has event space and meeting space. The lease space to different groups that do gymnastics and other types of activities. It’s a really nice, lively, well programmed space that community has done very well with.”

Muldrow and Brookover also recommended going forward with the Broad Street “road diet,” a plan to narrow Broad Street from two lanes in each direction to one lane in each direction between DeKalb and York streets. The men said it could conceivably attract more pedestrian traffic. That, in turn, could make a downtown hotel convenient for guests to visit downtown eateries, shops and attractions on foot.

Also tied to these concepts is that of developing the Maxway property on the northwest corner of Broad and Rutledge streets. However, Muldrow and Brookover did not say it necessarily had to be developed immediately.

“There’s been discussion about whether that should be an open space or a parking lot or whether it should be developed,” Muldrow said. “If you put a parking lot on that site, it will be one of the biggest mistakes this city ever makes. That is a key site in this downtown and it should be developed as a building. What we’re recommending in the interim is to put some grass on it and put a bench in it.”

Arnett Muldrow revealed the city’s new brand -- “Camden: Classically Carolina” -- in November. During a Camden City Council work session in December, the firm showed off more examples of the slogan and logo, including an example of a possible print advertisement. The firm based much of its final presentation Jan. 27 on the earlier reports. Muldrow and Brookover displayed several variations of the logo for advertising and signage purposes, as well as several sample ads that could be used on highway billboards or in magazines.

Muldrow said eight billboards were scheduled to go up around South Carolina on February 1. The men also showed off examples of Camden-related merchandise like ball caps and T-shirts.

As he has in other presentations, Muldrow said various businesses or organizations doing their own ad campaigns -- “siloing” -- dilutes the effectiveness of everyone’s marketing efforts.

“Each group has their own strategy, so it weakens your message overall. What we’re trying to do with this branding is to connect things together,” he said.

Muldrow said part of the marketing strategy is to increase the use of electronic media and target other tourist-based destinations in the state, hoping visitors to Charleston, Columbia and other historic areas will be tempted to visit Camden as well. Brookover said the larger communities invest considerable money into marketing and advertising to attract visitors from around the U.S. and the world and Camden could take advantage of that by advertising in those areas.

“You could be a very nice, viable add on to a trip to Charleston. It’s a great way to leverage the money. You’re not buying the ad. You’re letting these big markets with their bigger budgets do the heavy lifting and you’re leveraging what they’re doing by getting in their publications to give the Camden message to the visitor once they’re already here,” Brookover said. “It’s a lot easier to get someone to drive two hours from Charleston or 45 minutes from Columbia than it is to get them to fly from London. Let Charleston get them to fly over from London.”

He said existing Camden-area attractions such as the S.C. Equine park, Carolina Motorsports Park and Hermitage Farms should be used to get visitors from those areas into town to enjoy historical offerings, shops, restaurants and the Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County. Brookover said the equine park could hold more events each year, moving up from approximately 30 shows a year to more than 40. He also said sporting events like baseball, softball and soccer tournaments could be lured to Camden with upgrades to fields, restrooms, parking areas and lighting at the facilities. Brookover also complimented County Recreation Director Joe Eason as someone who understands marketing.

“There is a really nice market for regional and state level tournaments that can’t afford to go to Tiger River Park or to Rock Hill, so they’re looking for areas like Camden,” he said.

Brookover said fishing tournaments and canoe tours should be held at Lake Wateree and that Goodale State Park’s tourism potential should be expanded.

On the historical and cultural font, Muldrow said Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site is an asset with potential that can be expanded. While the site, combined with the Battle of Camden site eight miles north of Camden, are being considered for possible National Park Service designation, Muldrow warned that is a process that could take years. He recommended that the city assist Historic Camden with an update of its master plan.

“The master plan for Historic Camden is 40 years old. It needs to have a strategic plan and a fiscal strategy and really look at the next steps we have to do to remain viable, grow and prosper in the coming years,” Muldrow said. “No matter what, Historic Camden should work toward being self sustaining and (not) count on the National Park Service designation. We know it’s in the pipeline for designation, but we also know there are projects in the pipeline that have been through the approval process and have been waiting for eight and nine years.”

During the Jan. 27 presentation, Arnett Muldrow advocated the hiring of a city tourism director who would initially work under Camden Economic Development Director Wade Luther before reporting directly to the city manager. The director would also work with a five-member tourism committee or board made up of three designees from city council, one appointed by Kershaw County Council and another appointed by the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce. The firm also recommend a tourism training program for “frontline employees” such as restaurant and hotel staff who would be informed on area attractions and could share that information with visitors.

As he and Brookover did in December, Muldrow also said the county should implement an HTAX of its own to  gather revenue from hotels, restaurants and other businesses involved in tourism.

“This is one of maybe three or four counties left in South Carolina that has yet to implement an HTAX at the county level,” Muldrow said. “We see this as a partnership that ought to grow to see the city and the county work together.”

Other Arnett Muldrow recommendations include expanding the annual Tour of Homes event and to continue support of the Camden Archives and Museum. Other proposals for the heart of downtown include forming a “restaurant cluster” and organizing downtown events with partner organizations.

Brookover wrapped up the presentation by suggesting ways tourism can be tracked and analyzed to see what works and what doesn’t.

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