Supporters of plans for a 50-acre park at Lake Wylie renewed their call for action this week, asking that the York County Council set aside hospitality tax money to pay for the development.
Lake Wylie’s population has skyrocketed over the past decade with recent census data showing more than 100 percent growth, making it one of the fastest-growing areas in South Carolina.
That growth, park supporters say, results in Lake Wylie residents and visitors pouring more money into the county’s coffers through a hospitality tax – a 2 percent levy on businesses selling prepared food and drinks in York County’s unincorporated areas.
York County expects to collect about $1.6 million in hospitality tax by the end of this fiscal year.
Acting on a plan for the Crowders Creek Park would bring in even more money, says Tom Percival, member of the county’s hospitality tax advisory committee.
Crowder’s Creek Park could include a playground, a swimming pool and soccer, baseball and softball fields.
Weekend sports tournaments at the park could earn York County up to $765,000 every year, Percival told the council Monday night.
After a few years of operation, the park would start paying for itself, supporters say.
Tom Smith, a former council member who has worked for years on the park plan, said the existing cost estimate from a consultant is too high.
During the council’s budget talks earlier this year, council members looked at the Crowders Creek Park proposal and the $11.2 million price tag attached.
Bruce Henderson, Lake Wylie’s council representative, has said the park can be built for much less than $11.2 million.
Once the council identifies a way to pay for the park, the “bells and whistles” of the plan can be removed to meet budget, Percival said on Monday.
It’s possible the park will grow from being 50 acres to about 300 acres to include surrounding land which may be donated, Smith told the council.
Residents and visitors from at least 100 miles away will utilize the park and sports tourism will encourage new businesses – especially hotels – to set up shop in Lake Wylie, he said.
“You have to build it for people to come,” Smith said.
With Rock Hill’s success in turning a profit off sports tourism, he said, it has been proven there’s a lucrative market in attracting young athletes and their families.
The Lake Wylie area is close to maxing out its venues for practice and game fields for youth sports, Smith told the council.
The council members have sent the Crowders Creek Park idea to a county committee in hopes of nailing down details and ways to pay for the development.
The leader of the Lake Wylie Athletic Association says he’s hopeful that’s a sign that the park will move out of the planning stage and into the action phase.
Ken Wilson, the association’s chairman, said the park will definitely boost York County’s bottom line and encourage new businesses in the area.
Youth sports tournaments bring in big tourism dollars, he said.
Soccer, especially, “has just exploded,” Wilson said.
The Lake Wylie Athletic Association has about 1,000 children in its baseball, cheerleading, football and soccer programs.
Sometimes, there are not enough fields and venues to accommodate the leagues, Wilson said.
“We’re always looking for fields,” he said.
He agreed with Smith and Henderson that $11.2 million is too high of an estimate for a park on Crowders Creek.
The proposed park site is undeveloped. If the county would clear the land and let the community build extra fields, he said, then many people would be happy.
“We don’t need the Taj Mahal of baseball fields,” he said.
Like other Crowders Creek Park supporters, Wilson said Lake Wylie can capitalize on the events Rock Hill lacks the fields to accommodate.
When Rock Hill can’t fit in tournaments or teams, the players and their families use facilities in Charlotte, he said.
The park would draw tourism dollars into York County, Wilson said. “Why are we sending our money back to North Carolina?”