S.C. Equine Promotion Foundation Board Vice Chair John Cushman provided Camden City Council with some good news during its meeting Tuesday evening: the foundation already has commitments for all but about $220,000 of the $850,000 needed to construct a second covered arena at the S.C. Equine Park.
The park, on Cleveland School Road near I-20 Exit 101, currently has a covered arena, but needs a another, larger one.
“We, as a board, have voted to go ahead with a (second) covered arena,” Cushman said. “It’s been in our master plan for three years. Once we collect a couple of payments … we’ll have $631,000 in that building fund and we’ll continue to do some fundraising to meet the rest of that.”
The biggest gift, Cushman said, came from the state of South Carolina itself in the form of a $100,000 grant. He said there are two “windows” in which to have the arena built.
“That would be in December, January and February, when we have a down period, or, if we can’t get it done in that period, we would do it (next) June, July and August. But, we’re shooting for this December, January, February. We anticipate that we can get this done,” Cushman said.
He said the foundation and park are on “sound, financial footing” with zero debt.
“We think this is going to be a nice addition to the park,” he said.
Cushman confirmed for Camden Mayor Tony Scully that the new arena would be 30-feet in height, compared to the current arena’s 20-foot height.
“So, this is going to be considerably higher. It’s actually the same height as a covered arena they built in Conyers, Ga., for the Olympics,” Cushman said. “We figured if it was good enough for them, we ought to do that, too. We think we’ve corrected some shortcomings we have in our existing arena.”
Councilman Walter Long asked why it is important to have the higher arena.
“Currently, right now, we have one covered arena, which is like having none, because the events that like to show under cover need one to warm up in and one to perform in. We can’t do that right now,” Cushman said.
He said having the second arena will also provide an opportunity to add shows during the winter when booking events is more “dodgy,” as well as at night.
“We think we’re on the right track here,” Cushman said.
According to a press release issued Wednesday by the foundation, since opening in 2009, the park has seen events booked for an average of 30 weekends each year. That, it said, provides an economic impact to Camden and Kershaw County of more than $4 million annually.
“The addition of a second covered arena creates an opportunity to increase the economic impact of the park,” the foundation said in the statement. “Offering a safe and attractive space for competition, as well as protection from inclement weather, will encourage more event dates.
The foundation pointed out that the park contracts with operators in several equine disciplines, such as Hunter-Jumper, American Quarter Horse and American Paint Horse associations, Walking Horse, Dressage and cattle competitions, among others.
“A second covered arena will produce an even greater return on investment,” foundation officials said in the press release.
The foundation said elected officials, park sponsors and annual donors are “invaluable partners” of the park, and noted that tax-deductible donations “pave the way” for continued improvements, maintenance and expansion.
Also Tuesday night, Camden Fire Department (CFD) Lt. Chris Tidwell updated council on the CFD and Lugoff Fire-Rescue’s (LF-R) joint Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Labor Day weekend “Fill the Boot” Drive. As recently reported, the CFD and LF-R jointly raised more than $19,500 for MDA, surpassing its 2013 total of nearly $14,600.
Tara Heil, executive director of MDA Columbia, appeared at the council meeting and said 2014 marks the 60th anniversary of the MDA’s partnership with firefighters around the state. Heil presented Tidwell with a plaque recognizing the CFD’s involvement with MDA.
“We are very, very proud for Camden (and Lugoff) to be No. 3 in the state. I’ll point out, that is more than Myrtle Beach, that’s more than Greenville and a lot of bigger areas,” Heil said.
In other business:
• Council proclaimed the week of Sept. 17 as Constitution Week. Mayor Scully read and presented a copy of a proclamation to Shirley Ransom, of the Hobkirk Hill chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (see Localife, page 12 for more information).
• Council passed a resolution authorizing the possession and consumption of alcohol during the Carolina Downhome Blues Festival Oct. 2-4.
• Councilwoman Laurie Parks thanked Scully for speaking at the opening session of Junior Leadership Kershaw County. Parks said she has served as chair for the last 13 of the program’s 27 years. Scully said he was honored to speak to the group of Kershaw County School District and Camden Military Academy students.
• Council entered executive session for a short time to discuss an undisclosed contractual matter.