Tab for 5 proposed Richland County recreation projects top $66 million

05/15/2014 11:33 PM

05/15/2014 11:49 PM

The preliminary price tag for five new tourist attractions that Richland County Council is considering exceeds $66 million, with some likely being money losers for a decade, studies by consultants said Thursday.

Those predictions didn’t discourage some council members from their eagerness to proceed, while others asked for more study on the expected costs to operate and maintain the facilities.

Cost estimates to build each project – outlined in a report to council members – are:

• Up to $6 million for an amphitheater in the Kelly Mill area in the Northeast corner of the county
• Up to $9 million for a water park in Lower Richland
• $18 million for a water park in Northeast Richland
• Up to $14 million for another amphitheater
• $19.3 million for a baseball and softball complex in the Irmo area

Some council members are seeking to add a separate indoor sports complex in Lower Richland whose estimated cost is $16.5 million.

The facilities would be operated in a partnership with county recreation officials, those who oversee the Township Auditorium and management firms, the study said.

Specific sites for some of the projects are not known.

Some projects – such as the baseball and softball complex – should be scrapped because of estimates that they won’t be profitable for at least 10 years, Councilman Bill Malinowski said.

And only one water park should be selected since it’s likely “one is going to be cutting into the other somehow,” he said.

Other council members want a second look at the predicted financial impact, which includes hotels, restaurants and other development around them that would generate jobs and taxes.

“You’ve got to incorporate those ancillary benefits,” Councilman Kelvin Washington said.

It’s uncertain when council members will settle on what, if any, ideas go forward.

Some want a commitment to go ahead by mid-summer, waiting to settle on some aspects afterward.

Others want questions about costs settled first to make sure projects don’t become a financial drain.

More must be known about the price of running facilities to assure a project makes sense, Councilman Jim Manning said.

The projects would be paid for by using taxes collected on restaurant meals, take-out food and snacks during the past decade.

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