RICHLAND COUNTY, SC — Two contenders for the contract to manage Richland Countys 18-field soccer complex in Northeast Richland will come in for interviews later this month.
Columbia United, which runs soccer fields serving 4,600 kids in Richland County, and Global Spectrum, which manages USCs Colonial Life Arena, were the top two finishers among four organizations making bids to run and maintain the new park.
At a committee meeting earlier this week, three of the four council members guiding the project insisted on bringing in No. 2 Global Spectrum rather than moving toward negotiations with the top finisher.
Committee member Kelvin Washington said he wanted to gauge a commitment by the top two to involving women and minorities in the project, funded with restaurant-tax revenues.
Executing a management contract would put the county one step closer to breaking ground on the slow-moving, $22 million park announced in September 2006 and designed to attract tourists. The park manager will have input into the final design by M.B. Kahn Construction Co.
County procurement director Rodolfo Callwood said its not unusual to take a closer look at the top two bids. A meeting is set for Nov. 27.
Still, it seems to be one more delay in a project beset by them.
In June, the council dropped plans for baseball/softball fields after some complained about the price.
And now, two of the parks biggest supporters will not be returning to the council. Val Hutchinson and Gwendolyn Davis Kennedy lost bids for re-election, Kennedy in the June primary. Hutchinson has not conceded her loss last week. Votes are to be certified today.
Replacing Kennedy in January will be Torrey Rush, a skeptic of whats now projected to be a $22 million project in his district.
Rush said Thursday he needs to be convinced the project will make money or at least be self-sustaining.
I really want to re-evaluate that park and see what direction we need to go with it, he said.
It seems like theyre still in the planning phase of it, somewhat. ... Where are we? Does this project still make sense in our current economic climate? There are a lot of questions I have.
Rush said he hopes to succeed Kennedy as a member of the park committee.
People involved with soccer have said they have no doubt a well-run tournament park would draw people to the Midlands.
Ron Tryon, president of the board of directors of Columbia United, said the organization has always been self-sustaining.
It is the largest nonprofit youth soccer club in the state, with 4,600 people from pre-school to college age playing in the fall and spring, he said.
Global Spectrum, based in Glastonbury, Conn., has contracts with the University of South Carolina to run both the Colonial Life Arena and the non-university, non-athletic events at Williams-Brice Stadium.
We manage facilities of all different kinds, said Lexie Boone, the arenas general manager.
As we go through the process, if it seems like it makes sense for the county, Global Spectrum and the university, well explore it further.
The countys evaluation committee scored Columbia United at 430 out of a possible 500 points, and Global Spectrum at 401.
Washington had wanted the Richland County Recreation Commission to put in a bid, but it declined. Assistant director Kenya Bryant said the organization is spread too thin already.
Just before Tuesdays meeting, Kennedy, the chairwoman, said she expected the committee to review the rankings made by the five-person, in-house evaluation committee and recommend to the full council which bidder to negotiate with.
The committee weighed such things as experience in sports management, history of success, staffing, equipment and finances.
Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.