The Lexington County Recreation and Aging Commission is asking for a $23 million bond to build more youth sports facilities and senior centers as well as a baseball stadium suitable for collegiate baseball tournaments.
The plan still has to be approved by County Council, and the bill would be paid by taxpayers. With current low interest rates, it would cost county residents about $4 per year for every $100,000 in taxable property such as a house or vehicle.
The agency routinely goes on expansion spurts to handle demand for recreation and senior service facilities. County Council granted the agency a $10 million bond for new facilities in 1999 and a $17 million bond in 2005. Currently, the construction bond debt costs county residents about $14 for every $100,000 in taxable property. Because debt with higher interest rates would be paid off as the new bond with lower interest rates begins, the boost in taxes would be relatively small now.
The first reading of the bond proposal is scheduled for Tuesday night’s County Council meeting. Youth sports leagues usually bring crowds to county council hearings on recreation bonds, and their voices are heard.
“The demand for ball fields of all kinds is just overwhelming,” said County Councilman Johnny Jeffcoat of Irmo.
The agency long has built facilities designed to lure adult and youth softball, baseball and tennis tournaments. The new Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center already has been home to multiple national recreational tennis events. A collegiate-level baseball stadium could do the same for baseball.
The idea is to entice northern colleges to come down in January and February to train and/or play in the warmer climate, then draw teams for spring-break tournaments later in the collegiate season, according to Randy Gibson, executive director of the agency.
Gibson said ideally the stadium would be near the current youth baseball complex on Ball Park Road near Lexington. The agency has talked with Lexington 1 school district in the past about leasing the former Lexington High football stadium on Ball Park Road, but no deal has been done.
There also has been speculation that the Columbia Blowfish, a college-level summer league team, could move to Lexington if the old Capital City Stadium gives way to retail development as long planned. Gibson said the Lexington recreation agency’s stadium plan isn’t contingent on the Blowfish moving. Tournaments for high school-level players and recreational leagues could keep the stadium busy most of the summer and fall, he said.
Lexington Mayor Randy Halfacre said the bond package could help town leaders fulfill their dream of making the community a regional baseball hub. A stadium sets the stage to attract tournaments “at all levels,” he said.
In addition to the $3 million for the baseball stadium, the other major components on the $23 million list of projects include:
• $5 million for baseball and youth football facilities at the Midlands Sports Complex near Pine Ridge. “We’re finally addressing Bray Park,” Gibson said of the old complex that was built on a former landfill. New baseball fields were built at Midlands a few years ago. Those would be converted for use for girls softball.
• $5 million for a new baseball complex in Gilbert. Girls softball would expand to take over the old boys baseball fields.
• $3 million to buy property and expand the soccer complex off Gibson Road in Lexington.
• $2 million to replace the Ball Park Road gym.
• $800,000 to buy property and build at new senior center in Pine Ridge. The current senior center is too small, and there’s no room for expansion. It also is being used as a Pine Ridge town hall and might be sold to the town.
• $800,000 to finish the Red Bank Sports Complex, adding two baseball/softball fields and paving the parking lot.
• $600,000 to buy land at the Old Barnwell Road soccer complex.
• $500,000 to expand the Gilbert Senior Center.
• $500,000 for a baseball/football complex in Swansea.
• $500,000 to complete the Sand Hills soccer complex in Swansea.
• $300,000 to pave the parking lot at the Lexington Dixie Youth complex.
The proposal also includes $1 million in contingency money for property purchases.