Backers of a $2.7 million centennial park on Fort Jackson that is to commemorate its 100th anniversary will have to make due with $300,000 in public seed money from the city of Columbia.
The Gateway to the Army Association on Tuesday asked City Council for $450,000 to kick-start a fundraising drive for a park they hope to open in June, when the Army’s largest recruit training base reaches its century mark.
Council OK’d $300,000 over three years and directed City Hall administrators to find the money. Administrators will come back to council later with suggested funding sources.
Under questioning by a council member, association president, retired Command Sgt. Major Marty Wells, said civilians will have the same access to the 3-plus-acre park that will feature a 300-seat amphitheater as they do to the post’s water park. They must present ID and pass a brief background check before admission to the post.
Wells said the specifics of access to the proposed park, to be constructed where the post headquarters stood for decades, have not been worked out.
Council’s approval means park organizers can go to banks for a temporary loan backed by the commitment of public money, he said.
The association, created as a nonprofit organization to build the park, is about to launch a national campaign to get large corporate sponsorships, Wells said. So far, the group has raised about $50,000 locally in private donations of cash or in-kind services, he said.
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.
Wells said the council’s decision – the first commitment of public money – could help persuade Richland County and Lexington County councils to pledge money. That, in turn, could help get buy-in from smaller cities and towns that benefit from the economic impact of the post, he said.
Initially, the association asked City Council for $500,000 over three years. That figure was whittled to $450,00 after conversations with Mayor Steve Benjamin, Wells said Tuesday. Council, however, decided it would support the $300,000 figure.