For years, elected officials and residents have wished for an alternative to Rhame Arena, which has become a shell of what it once was. For years, we have envisioned an active, vibrant recreation center that can become a haven for our youth, an asset for our elderly and a shining light for our city. For years, we have heard much talk but seen little action.
Finally, the time for action has arrived.
If you haven’t heard, the city of Camden plans to partner with the YMCA of Columbia to construct a recreation facility on the former site of Boylan-Haven-Mather Academy on Campbell Street. The project will be transformational for that end of downtown Camden. It will provide the residents of Camden and Kershaw County an amenity that they deserve, and will create a stream of traffic to the area that our merchants sorely need.
There are a few area residents -- motivated exclusively by personal financial reasons -- that are doing all they can to stop the progress we are making and prevent this important project from succeeding. They are trying their hardest to frame this project as “anti-small business.”
In reality, the positives this project will bring to every citizen of our city and county far outweigh the negative cries of a small group. Instead of adjusting their services to maintain a healthy share of the market, their efforts are focused on halting the progress of a project that will benefit our citizens for generations.
Though their efforts are persistent, I believe the silent majority of our citizens understand that our area deserves more than Rhame Arena can offer. Our residents deserve a top-notch facility with a professional staff that can provide wellness amenities to all of our residents -- young and old -- regardless of fitness level.
The benefits of the YMCA go beyond providing our citizens with a place to exercise and our children with afterschool programs. The facility will also play a large role in our economic development efforts going forward.
The facility will increase the quality of life for citizens in the surrounding area. When prospective businesses visit our city, they look for amenities that set Camden apart. They want to know that our community will be a place where their employees enjoy living, and that our leadership is committed to improving life in Camden. Once this project is complete, the first stop on any tour we give to prospective business owners will be the YMCA.
The next step in this process is determining what components the YMCA will contain. Many of you, while voicing your support of the project, have suggested various components that you would like to see included (i.e. a swimming pool, tennis courts, a walking track, etc.). To officially state what you want the facility to include, I urge you to attend one of the upcoming public meetings. The first meeting will be Monday, June 13 from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Douglas Reed House on the campus of the Fine Arts Center. The final meetings will be held Tuesday, June 14, from 12 to 1 p.m. and 5 to 6 p.m. also at the Fine Arts Center.
Back in November, a referendum was held regarding a 1 percent capital projects sales tax. On the ballot, a new recreation facility to replace Rhame Arena was listed as a project that would be funded with the proceeds of the tax. Though the tax failed countywide, it passed overwhelmingly within the city limits.
This sent the message loud and clear that something must be done. We will not have to raise taxes to fund the YMCA, but the fact that residents of the city were willing to raise their own taxes to fund a recreation center shows that the demand exists.
It is time -- finally -- that we step up to meet that demand.