Organizers who want construct a nearly $3 million park at Fort Jackson to commemorate the post’s 100-year anniversary are launching their public fundraising campaign Tuesday with Columbia City Council.
Gateway to the Army Association, a nonprofit group created to build the park, is to ask the council for $500,000 spread over three years, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Marty Wells said Monday. Wells is president of the association, which he said has raised almost $50,000 in private donations or in-kind commitments.
The $2.7 million park would feature a 300-seat amphitheater on a 3-plus-acre site where post headquarters had stood for decades, Wells said. The park also would have a 20-foot granite statue as a tribute to the drill sergeants who are the backbone of the Army’s largest basic-training facility. Plans also call for green spaces, new trees and picnic areas.
The park could be used for trainee graduation ceremonies, change-of-command ceremonies, a place for an Army band to perform and general recreation, Wells said. It also would serve as a tribute to the nearly 5 million-plus soldiers who have been trained there and others who have worked on the post.
“There’s not going to be anything quite like it,” he said of the park, which Wells hopes will open in June. Fort Jackson turns 100 years old that month.
The post has a $2.2 billion annual economic impact statewide, according to a January 2015 study by the University of South Carolina Darla Moore business school. The yearly impact in greater Columbia is $2 billion, the study shows.
Columbia city manager Teresa Wilson said if the council approves the money, city staff will begin looking for funding sources, including possibly meal-tax revenue.
Wells hopes that a financial commitment from the capital city will encourage other local governments that get spin-off income from the post to help finance the park.
“We want to get Columbia behind us and use that as a barometer ... a motivator,” he said of backing his group is seeking from Richland County and Lexington County councils as well as the larger towns and cities that share in Fort Jackson’s economic benefits.
Wells’ organization has asked Richland County for another $500,000 commitment though he said the association has not set dollar goals for Lexington County, the town of Lexington, Forest Acres and Blythewood. Richland County has not made a commitment, he said. The group plans to take its proposal to other large municipalities in the two-county area.
Converting the land where post headquarters stood until May requires final approval from the secretary of the Army, Wells said. That hasn’t happened yet. But he said indications from that office as well as on-post commanders are that the plan has wide support.
If you go
Columbia City Council meets twice on Tuesday. The Fort Jackson park proposal is set for discussion at the work session.
WHEN: A work session begins at 2 p.m., during which council does not take votes. The regular council meeting begins at 6 p.m.
WHERE: Both meetings are in council chambers on the third floor of City Hall, 1737 Main St.