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Hospitality and tourism

Posted: August 25, 2011 11:03 a.m.
Updated: August 26, 2011 5:00 a.m.

I have never before felt compelled to write a letter to our local newspaper or any other newspaper for that matter, but I do now. I own a business near Camden that draws hundreds of “out of town” people to stay in our motels and B&Bs, buy gas, eat out and shop. This supports my business and injects revenue into our community which obviously is a win/win, so I understand how important tourism can be to our town.

Camden is fortunate to have several excellent restaurants which we can enjoy as well as entertain guest and business associates. As we know the city council has seen fit to initiate a hospitality tax on these facilities to raise money for the city to use to attract more tourism. I eat out frequently in Camden, so I feel that I pay my fair share of this tax and I have never had a problem with that -- until now!

It looks as though a lot of this money (plus money for years down the road) is fixin’ to get spent on a new YMCA facility. Depending on who you talk to, this may be a “legal use” for our tax dollars but is it a “good use”? It is supposed to be used to attract tourist and tourism (the practice of traveling for pleasure or recreation). A new YMCA on the surface may sound like a wonderful idea but with all of the soccer fields, ball fields and other venues that we have available for our local citizens which are seriously underutilized now, I wonder how much and for how long a new $6 to $9 million proposed complex will benefit the community and I seriously doubt that it will have little if any effect on tourism!

Several of our neighbors have built facilities that do promote tourism and bring lots of dollars into the communities. Sumter has a wonderful tennis complex with 24 lighted courts and cost less than $2 million to build. It is free for the citizens of Sumter to play on, holds many clinics for young players and would-be players and hosts regional tournaments bringing significant money and tourism into Sumter. Columbia has softball fields that are reserved well in advance and also bring lots of tourist dollars into town with all of the many events they host. I have a friend in charge of the Joplin Sports Authority in Missouri and between the tennis and softball venues that they have, the revenue produced is incredible.

I understand that Rhame Arena has been around for a long time, but I would think that structurally the building is pretty sound and that the facility could be renovated into a first class facility for a lot less money than we are talking about spending on a new one and still have money left over for real income-producing venues.

I was born and raised in Camden and I love this town but I believe to spend the amount of money being proposed on a new YMCA (we had one before) is a bad move and one we will all regret. I ask that this city reconsider this project and explore other and better alternatives.

My two cents’ worth!

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