Richland panel moves to kill new NE park

dhinshaw@thestate.com March 26, 2013 

— A committee that was supposed to oversee the construction of a regional tournament park in Northeast Richland County voted unanimously Tuesday to kill it.

“I couldn’t rally the troops,” said Joyce Dickerson, the only original advocate for the park on the 11-member council.

The ad hoc park committee asked lawyers to return Tuesday with advice on how to end a design contract with M.B. Kahn Construction.

Since the project viewed as a tourism generator was announced in September 2006, the county has spent in excess of $7.3 million on land and pre-construction planning.

Dickerson said plans were undone by changing politics and demographics since the county bought the 206-acre tract at Farrow and Hard Scrabble roads.

Many Northeast residents have a conservative view of government and taxes, she said.

Others don’t find a soccer park appealing, newly elected Councilman Torrey Rush said.

When the county bought the land, there was talk of a swimming pool, gym, baseball and soccer, in excess of $60 million. But some on council objected to the price tag and, trying to keep the project alive, the committee last year agreed to pare it back to soccer only.

Rush said the park plan isn’t “inclusive” enough.

The park property is in his district, so his position on the project is key.

Next week, the $21 million project goes before the full council for a vote.

But with Rush’s lack of interest, and Dickerson’s willingness to pull back, the project appears dead.

“Seven years down the road, I just don’t think the community excitement is still there,” Rush said.

Councilman Kelvin Washington made the motion to suspend activity on the project, funded with taxes collected on restaurant meals. Dickerson seconded his motion.

Washington said later the county needs a “comprehensive sports complex plan” but said the Farrow Road property is a bad location. He insisted there’s no talk of another project elsewhere.

“Now I might have to look at some things,” said Washington, who represents Lower Richland.

The fourth member of the ad hoc committee is Julie-Ann Dixon, also new to the council.

Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.

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