Consultants say Columbia needs signature recreation facility - - Columbia, South Carolina

Consultants say Columbia needs signature recreation facility


Consultants hired by the City of Columbia to develop a  master plan for its park system say the city needs a signature park or attraction that generates revenue.

Columbia-based Genesis Consulting Group and Kenneth B. Simmons Associates worked on the master plan and presented it to city council members Tuesday.

"Columbia needs to create a landmark destination," said David Brandes with Genesis Consulting. "So that someone in Texas says, 'Oh, Columbia, South Carolina, you're the city with the..."

"You have a lot of facilities," Brandes told council. "You don't have a revenue-generating facility like a golf course or a water park."

That's just one of several proposals the firms came up with. The groups compared Columbia's parks and recreation facilities to other cities of similar size and description, including Spartanburg, Greenville, Charleston, Knoxville and Raleigh.

They found other cities generate "far more revenues in Recreation."

Columbia has "too many facilities for the money budgeted for maintenance," Brandes said. "You have to add more money or get rid of some of the things you have."

The study also found many facilities are understaffed, or staff is not properly trained or accredited.

"The salary ranges you pay for recreation are a bit on the lower end," Brandes told council.

They also concluded the cost of replacement and repair of some facilities, such as playgrounds, can be a burden on the city budget.

Among the solutions offered:

  • Develop partnerships with other municipalities, such as Richland County, Fort Jackson or USC
  • Pursue corporate sponsorships
  • Evaluate parks and consider consolidation, eliminating or re purposing
  • Consider parks and rec as part of the overall economic development of the city
  • Modernize existing facilities
  • Encourage planning for areas surrounding parks
  • Change hours of operation to align with parks' uses or access
  • Use Hospitality Tax funds for parks and rec
  • Generate revenue by offering more fee-based programs and organized sports leagues

The groups also recommended 24-hour security for Finlay Park.

"Finlay Park is an issue," said Brandes. "It's gotten to a point where a 24-hour presence is necessary."

"Everything is sponsored in other cities," he said. "But if you're going to have sponsorships, you have to have somebody to sell them.  If you don't have someone who's full-time doing it, you'll fall behind."

The master plan will be used as a blueprint for improving the city's parks and recreation department.  It is required for accreditation of employees and grant applications.

The parks and rec department will evaluate the study and present its own recommendations to city council.

Mayor Benjamin assured citizens their neighborhood parks would remain.

"We're not closing any parks," he said.

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