Greenwood County Council on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution to tear down the Greenwood Civic Center.
The facility has been a source of much debate since it was closed in 2009 for financial reasons. Councilman Robbie Templeton said he felt it was time for council to make the right decision.
“The decision is long overdue,” Templeton said. “We’ve had the data to make a decision for years. One of the first things (former county manager) Bob Haynie told council was that we needed to get rid of it because it was losing so much money. We’ve tried to run it. We’ve tried to bring in a private company to run it. We’ve tried everything to keep it open. It’s time to move on.”
Councilman Chuck Moates, who has long been a vocal advocate of tearing down the civic center, said council has heard from citizens, a select committee of citizens and county staff, all with one conclusion.
“The overwhelming consensus is that the civic center, in its present condition, is no longer a viable asset to the county,” Moates said. “Furthermore, the cost for refurbishing this facility would place an onerous and unwanted burden on the citizens of this county. For this and other reasons, I feel that it is time for this council to move forward to take down the civic center and to begin working toward a plan to repurpose the site for expanded recreational use.”
Templeton said he, too, would like to see the entire 80-acre Wilbanks Sports Complex redeveloped into a sprawling sports complex where the county could attract visitors who could provide a positive economic impact in the county.
Council chairman Mark Allison noted that the decision to demolish the facility was not made lightly. Allison referred to the 12 page report prepared by the committee of citizens who evaluated all possible uses for the facility. Allison said the report specifically said the facility was no longer viable as an entertainment venue due to the large number of similar venues in the area, each of which is listed in the report with all its pertinent data as to seating, square footage, etc. Allison also noted that council had gone to every county department, including the Sheriff’s Office, to see if the facility could be used for other purposes. No departments within the county felt the facility could be used for any current or future operational purposes. The cost to bring the building up to current code would be about $3.4 million, according to the resolution.
It was on April 1, 1975 that council took its initial action on the civic center by adopting an ordinance directing the construction, operation and maintenance of the civic center. It was on April 1 of this year that the committee of citizens chaired by Charlie Herndon recommended to council that, if adaptive reuse of the civic center was not feasible, then the facility should be demolished.
“I’m saddened,” Allison said of making the decision to tear down the civic center. “I’m certainly not jumping for joy at the decision, but it’s time to move on.”
Rossie Corwon, special projects manager for Greenwood County, said she will begin preparing specifications for the demolition of the civic center. Those specifications are expected to be completed by the end of September, at which time the project will go out for bid. An ordinance will be adopted once council reviews the bids and selects a contractor.