FLORENCE, S.C. — Florence is attempting to hit another redevelopment home run.
The city is expected to announce at a Monday afternoon news conference that it will develop a $15 million sports complex beside the Dr. Eddie Floyd Tennis Center at the location of the former Clemson extension office.
A lease agreement with an unnamed summer wooden bat league team for the stadium is expected to be announced at the news conference.
"For many months, we've been through this process of borrowing money, receiving 30 acres of property adjacent to the tennis center where he had already given about the same amount of acreage for the tennis center," Florence Mayor Stephen J. Wukela said.
Florence County Clerk of Court records indicate that Floyd transferred 37.07 acres of property located past the tennis center on Jennie O'Bryan Avenue to the city in 2014 and over 43 acres of property to the city in 2018.
A plan for the complex shows development on both of these properties.
The city issued bonds in October 2017 to fund recreation improvements throughout the city. Other projects from the bond issue are the community centers at Maple and Dr. Iola Jones Parks.
The centerpiece of the new complex will be a $5 million baseball stadium capable of seating 1,600 fans. It will also feature a ticket booth, two concessions, restroom buildings, concourse siting areas, batting cages and locker rooms.
"In that process, we were also [planning to] constructing a central field, a main field," Wukela said. "And we had some interest from some folks who might want to play there."
The news conference will be held after Monday's city council meeting because the council is expected to approve on first reading an ordinance authorizing a lease agreement with the unnamed summer wooden bat league team for the stadium.
Wukela declined to provide the name of the team.
However, Florence is home to the RedWolves, who play their games on the Francis Marion University campus.
The unnamed team is expected to outfit the new stadium with VIP seating, party suites, a beer garden, kids play area and group outing hospitality areas. The team is expected to move into the facility in time for the 2022 season.
The complex will also feature a full-size track and field facility with spectator seating, another regulation size baseball field including batting cages, five youth-sized baseball fields, buildings for restrooms and concessions, two parking lots with approximately 520 spaces, and a grass lot for overflow parking.
Wukela said the development of the facility would not stop the use of existing baseball fields at local parks and Freedom Florence. He added that the new facilities would relieve the burdens placed on the existing facilities as they attempt to host regional and local baseball and softball teams' games and practices.
The track and field facility offers the city the ability to host regional and national track and field events at a college level facility, Wukela added.
Jennie O’Bryan Avenue will also be extended as part of the project. Ultimately it will provide a connect for the new facility with West Lucas Street and Interstate 95's exit 164.
In city council meetings, Wukela often speaks of the need for the city to take the first steps to get the ball moving on development and redevelopment of an area.
The new sports complex would be near a notorious portion of West Lucas Street that Florence County Chief Deputy Glen Kirby pledged to have the special investigations team of the sheriff's office work until it was a safer place.
By building a baseball and track facility near the area, the city could be hoping to spur redevelopment of that area.
Wukela used the example of the city's soccer complex that he credits for spurring commercial development in the West Palmetto Street area.
Also, the city recently approved the zoning and annexation of a parcel near the sports complex that will become home to a senior care facility.
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