The Orangeburg community got its first look at the City of Orangeburg's new North Road recreational park complex during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Dec. 4.
"This recreational complex is a vision that has become a reality," Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler told those gathered. "Enhancing the quality of life for the residents of Orangeburg remains one of the primary goals of our administration."
"It cannot be understated what this facility means to Orangeburg," Butler said. "We are looking forward to partnering with the various entities that will make this facility become another stream of revenue for our city.
“This facility helps to dismiss the notion that there is nothing to do in Orangeburg."
The complex is located behind Orangeburg Preparatory Schools’ North Road campus.
It has two clusters of baseball and softball fields, restrooms, walking and biking trails, picnic tables, playground equipment and open green space.
It has two press boxes as well as concession stands. The recreation complex also includes more than 500 parking spaces.
The complex has been touted as an ideal site for collegiate tournaments as well as youth softball and baseball tournaments.
In fact, the park will host tournaments beginning as soon as February of 2020. Among the events the park will host is the USSSA All American Baseball Program for youth 8 to 15 years old.
The South Carolina Dixie Youth Tournament for Division 1 and Division 2 Majors is also scheduled to play in the park in the middle of July, along with the Division 2 AA Coach Pitch.
Seventh-grader Morrison Burroughs said the fields are amazing. He plays first base and is a pitcher on the OPS baseball team.
"They are some of the best I have ever seen," he said. "I have been to numerous places in Columbia for travel ball tournaments and none of those fields compare to this."
"I think this is a great opportunity for all the counties and cities to come in and play the best game in the world," Burroughs said. "I thank all the recreational staff and especially Mr. John Yow for putting this complex together."
Orangeburg Parks and Recreation Director Shaniqua Simmons said she’s excited.
"I am excited for the community. It is big time playing with nine fields,” she said.
"We just have to get our name out there and let them know that this is a great complex and that Orangeburg welcomes all its visitors," she continued.
The park's 1.9 miles of walking trails and open spaces will be free and open to the public from dawn to dusk. Individuals wanting to use the fields and pavilion will need to contact the Orangeburg Department of Parks and Recreation prior to use.
S.C. Parks and Recreation Executive Director Jim Headley praised the park for adding to the tourist opportunities for the state. He noted the state has a tourism industry of about $22.6 billion.
"Ecotourism and sports tourism is certainly a huge part of that," Headley said.
He noted that Rock Hill has become a destination for sports tourism.
"There are going to be naysayers and those are going to be the ones that will probably first jump on the bandwagon," Headley said. "Let us not forget those who did have the courage at this point in time. Sports tourism is a huge part of what we do as a state."
Headley said the children are important.
"Our citizens across this state and here in Orangeburg deserve quality facilities such as this," Headley said. "They deserve it."
Former Orangeburg Parks and Recreation Department Director Buster Smith, who was in attendance at the grand opening, envisioned such a project about 15 years ago.
"Coming up with the money was another story," Smith said. "Once that happened, it happened. The results have been very good. There will be more in the future."
"I am just glad for the kids in Orangeburg," he said "It is something they can use during the week, and then it will be open for tournaments during the weekends. It is a win-win for everybody."
The property was formerly owned by Claudia Wannamaker Covington.
Covington donated the property to the Orangeburg YMCA. The city then purchased the property from the YMCA.
The park was built by Peak, S.C.-based Edcon. Irmo-based Coogler Construction Co. Inc. is the largest subcontractor.
About $12 million was 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 city also needed to borrow about $4 million. The bond will be paid with accommodations and hospitality tax revenue, not property taxes.
In August 2018, council purchased about 19 acres from the YMCA of Columbia. The land was situated in the middle of property the city currently owns. The total project will occupy 133 acres when complete.
The additional acreage brings the total project cost to about $20 million.
For more information about the Orangeburg recreation park including rentals, contact the City of Orangeburg's Parks and Recreation Department at 803-533-6020.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.
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