Public hearing shows support for new recreation complex plans
By Melissa Rollins, Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
It is time for Darlington to put its differences aside and become a united community. That is the message that Darlington County Recreation and Tourism Director Lee Andrews told the audience at a public hearing Tuesday, April 25, regarding the latest plans for a recreation complex.
Andrews said that he has been working to get a complex the entire time he has worked in Darlington.
“This has been ongoing for four years; I can say that because I’ve been here for four years,” Andrews said. “We have looked at different places around the city to find a tract big enough to put in everything that we could possibly want in one place. As we’ve searched, we had some good leads and some not so good leads; we had some opportunities and some missed opportunities. That has led us to where we are right now.”
Andrews said that after attempts to find a site large enough for all planned sports didn’t pan out, he had to begin looking at other options.
“Four to six months ago, council charged me with thinking outside of the box in some of the locations that we were already using; this is what we have come up with,” Andrews said. “Phase One would be the Virgil Wells Complex; Phase Two would be the Blue Street Complex. The plan is to play all baseball at the Virgil Wells Complex; all baseball. There will be no more two leagues; there will be one league in the City of Darlington. All softball will be played at the Blue Street Complex.”
After saying that there would be two complexes, one for baseball and one for softball, Andrew further explained his statement about having one baseball league.
“This is just Lee Andrews’ opinion; this is coming from no one on council, this is coming from nobody with the city administration,” Andrews said. “We have drug our feet long enough and we have had two recreation departments long enough. Every time I get a complaint, it is ‘What are you doing in my neighborhood’ and ‘What are you doing in my area.’ It doesn’t take someone to say that this town is divided; we have been divided for some time. It is time for us to not be divided anymore. This is a step in that direction.”
After citizens had the opportunity to ask questions and voice their concerns, several council members spoke about the need for the complex.
“The idea for a recreational complex was perfect for me… because I knew that regardless of where it was, it would be beneficial to the citizens as well as the youth of Ward 2,” Reed said. “My son was here from the time that he could sign up at the city recreation department. We have always had to travel; it wasn’t even an issue. Wherever this park was going to be, I was all for it, whether we had to travel or not because that is what I have had to do.”
Reed said that she is excited for the children of Darlington to play in a single league and excited for the opportunity to bring visitors to the city.
“It is beneficial to the city,” Reed said. “It will bring visitors here, most certainly, when we have a state-of-the-art place for them to play. The move to one league, where the recreation department will be the authority, will make the difference.”
Councilwoman Carolyn Bruce said that, as an athlete herself, she knows the power that athletics has to bring people together.
“One of the things that I ran on was doing something our kids because that is our future,” Bruce said. “They go to school together; they can come together, wherever it may be, to play sports. I know for a fact that is going to be good and this is what we have to do for our children.”
Some of the concerns brought up by citizens included extra traffic through he neighborhoods where the complexes would be, maintenance of the properties once they are built, the fact that softball and baseball would be separated making it difficult for parents. Many expressed support for the project, saying that it will be something positive for their children and grandchildren. Darlington County School Board member Dr. Thelma Dawson was in attendance and, when asked by Mayor Gloria Hines to give her opinion, said that she was in favor of the complex.
Andrews said that not everything about the project will be perfect for everyone but he believes that it will be a good thing for Darlington.
“People always talk about the sports teams are in Hartsville and how good they are,” Andrews said. “You go to Hartsville Northern League and it’s no better than Blue Street. They don’t need a million dollar facility to have anything; it’s a mindset there. You throw them out there and they want to compete. Sometimes our kids are looking for an excuse for why they are doing bad; we’ve got to change that mindset and it starts with being in one place. I look forward to the opportunity of building this for the citizens of Darlington.”
The land the city is looking to build the recreation complex on is owned by the Darlington County School District. The city is seeking to purchase the land from the district. During an April 10 school board meeting, board chair Jamie Morphis told Andrews that the district will be looking at building projects of their own to make sure that the land in question would not be in conflict with any of those before moving forward with the city.