Civic center committee served purpose well
Sunday, April 06, 2014 12:29 AM
Committees often are the subjects of jokes, be they church committees, political committees or other. If you want something to die an unsavory death, just send it to committee. Right?
With respect to what can or possibly should be done with Greenwood County’s vacant civic center property, County Council was wise to send the matter to committee. This was not just any committee, which has everything to do with why the committee idea had merit. Its makeup consisted of people with varying backgrounds and areas of expertise. People in the private and government sector, people with architectural, nonprofit and financial and other backgrounds spent months studying the issue at the request of council.
The civic center, once a thriving facility where such notables as Jimmy Buffett performed and where a wide variety of activities brought crowds that filled the parking lot and the arena’s seats, was shuttered by council in 2009. It had seen better days. No longer were there events throughout the year; instead, there were only the occasional wrestling matches, graduation ceremonies or concerts that mostly brought fledgling crowds.
The facility had become a huge financial drain on the county, meaning it was costing county taxpayers far more money to keep somewhat operational than it was worth.
For too many years since it was closed, however, the property has sat vacant and useless. Council put the civic center on a back burner and let it simmer. Frankly, council let it simmer for too long — until recently when council agreed it had to do something other than let the eyesore fall to waste out of sheer neglect.
While council determined the so-called elephant in the room had to be recognized and dealt with, it was not altogether ready to tackle the project on its own. Instead, council invited the public to weigh in with its thoughts on what should be done with the property before eventually putting together the committee that would ultimately study the matter and return its findings to the full council.
That report was given to council last week. It was perhaps far more comprehensive than even council anticipated, and it was certainly well worth the wait.
Among the findings is what many people, including us, believed all along: Whatever its new life and purpose may be, it need not be reborn as an events venue. Those days are gone, new facilities exist and are sufficient for Greenwood at this point. And it does not appear to be a solid prospect as an industrial site, the committee determined.
Perhaps the best and most useful information brought before council is that Greenwood County needs to make a priority the establishment of a facilities master plan. That plan needs to include how best to repurpose the civic center property.
For example, can the structure itself be retrofitted, adapted to meet some other need, such as converting it into additional county office space? A recreational facility? And if not, then it should be demolished.
Has the committee come forward with one, possibly two solid choices for council to make or put before the voters? No, but that’s OK. It did better than that. It gave good direction, to include what should not be done. It presented some possibilities, such as the adaptive reuse of the structure. And while the idea of moving county government offices so far from the city central location is not appealing from our perspective, that and other possibilities ought to be considered.
What the committee has accomplished with its study and report is good, for it has awakened county leadership to the realization it needs to think longer, not shorter term.
Thus the need for a comprehensive facilities study and the development of a master plan, a plan that can and should include a sizable tract of land and building on Highway 72 East. It appears council will heed the committee’s advice too, and that’s commendable.