After many years of discussion and planning, the Orangeburg recreation complex has remained a concept on paper.
The concept will now proceed toward reality, with construction for the approximately $17 million project tentatively scheduled to begin this fall.
The City of Orangeburg’s recreation complex will be built behind the Orangeburg Preparatory Schools upper campus.
It will include two clusters of baseball and softball fields, restrooms, concession stands, press boxes and meeting rooms.
There will also be walking and biking trails, picnic tables, playground equipment, open green space, as well as about 600 parking spaces.
The fields could be ready for play within a year after construction begins.
Orangeburg City Administrator John Yow said the final details of the project are being worked out with architects and engineers. The plans will then go before Orangeburg City Council for review.
Yow said the project will benefit not only the City of Orangeburg, but the county.
"We are certainly building it first and foremost for our residents here to use" for recreation, Yow said. "We are also building it for the universities to be able to play their lady softball programs and invite collegiate tournaments.
“We hope to host many softball and baseball tournaments and all-stars currently going on in other communities."
There will be a park element where individuals will be able to walk, jog and exercise, he said. There will also be space for family activities.
About 60 acres have been cleared for the project between the North Road Walmart and Medway Drive.
A road has been constructed from North Road to the future ball fields, providing two exits and two entrances. In addition to the road, utilities will also be constructed during the initial stage.
The road project was developed through a partnership with Fort Motte Partners LLC, a company of Century 21 The Moore Group, and C.F. Evans Construction Company. Fort Motte donated about five acres to the city to allow for additional amenities and parking.
"The public and private partnership are already spurring the interest of business and economic development in that area," Yow said.
The Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities is also assisting with the recreational park project, Yow said.
About $12 million has been allocated toward the project from the first three rounds of Orangeburg County’s capital projects sales tax. An additional $200,000 from the fourth round will be used for the complex and traffic control.
The complex will also likely be funded through the city's hospitality and accommodations tax.
In conjunction with the recreational complex, Fort Motte and C.F. Evans Construction are working to develop the adjacent property next to Walmart for restaurants, retail outlets, an entertainment complex with possible movie theater, as well as a hotel and residential areas.
Walking paths, ponds and open spaces are also planned.
The work currently being done is focused on infrastructure such as roads, sewer, water, engineering and traffic.
While the main road to the property has been cut in, the next step is the approval of a mass grading permit from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
"I would think weather permitting and getting this approval, within 30 to 45 days we will have what we need to move forward," Century 21 Commercial Realtor Cal Bruner said.
Bruner said now that the main road has been cut in to provide access to the front parcels, secondary roads will also be added once approval from DHEC is provided.
"Once that grading is completed, then we will be ready to go," Bruner said.
Bruner said the property has seen a lot of interest.
"I have had 15 to 20 inquiries over the last few months," he said. "The interest has been primarily from retail and restaurants."
Bruner said there have also been discussions about entertainment venues.
He declined to comment on specifics because of confidentiality agreements.
Bruner hopes that groundbreaking for a specific retailer could be done by the end of this year.
"Everybody that we have talked to is really excited about it," Bruner said.
The project has seen its challenges.
Weather delayed the permitting process.
Construction was initially set to begin around the middle of 2006, but was put on hold because of the economic downturn. The target date was pushed into 2009 or possibly 2010.
By September 2016, the property remained untouched. Then that all changed.
Crews spent several weeks in October felling trees on the property.
In order to maintain the uniqueness of the property, the magnolia trees were preserved. The name of the property is Magnolia Village.