Kershaw County voters at odds over saving Camden High's Zemp Stadium

Kershaw County voters at odds over saving Camden High's Zemp Stadium

CAMDEN, SC (WIS) - An historic South Carolina stadium might be closing its gates for good if two referendums pass in Kershaw County next Tuesday.

The referendums would also rebuild old schools and refurbish others and supporters say it would strengthen the county's economy.

Opponents, however, have other concerns and are fighting to save Camden High's Zemp Stadium.

The Kershaw County School District says it's simply too expensive to continue putting band aids on its aging schools and even more expensive to bring them up to code.

That's why the district wants more tax dollars to rebuild certain schools and the plan includes building a new stadium, which has some in Kershaw County fighting back.

"My dad brought us in here as little kids, and I watched all the Camden football games and played in them starting in 1978," said Camden resident Scott Jordan.

Camden High School's Zemp Stadium is sacred to Jordan.

Both he and his son played football in what's the oldest continuously used stadium in South Carolina.

But the stadium of so many memories might be shut down, if voters say 'yes' to two referendums.

"I couldn't believe that they would even consider taking away the tradition of Zemp Stadium," Jordan said.

But Ben Connell is leading the charge in support of the referendums.

"My father, Jim Connell, he played for Camden High School in Zemp Stadium, and having discussed this issue in depth with him, his view is we remember the people who played there, not necessarily the space," Connell said.

Aside from Zemp, the two votes would allow the school district to borrow money and create a one-percent sales tax to rebuild and refurbish the district's old schools.

Camden Elementary, Lugoff Elementary, and Wateree Elementary would be rebuilt, three other schools consolidated into one, among other improvements.

"Mt. Pisgah Elementary School was built in 1924, which was eight years before Franklin Roosevelt was elected President, said Kershaw County Schools Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan. “We have a lot of very old facilities that we've tried very hard to keep up."

The plan also puts Zemp on the chopping block.

However Morgan says the district will rebuild a stadium across the street from Camden High with $4.6 million.

"It will build a far superior with lighted parking, paved parking, a field house, adequate restrooms, you know, a good field,” Morgan said. “That site already has an eight-laned track."

Jordan said he will keep fighting.

"It's not about the stories of Zemp and the people who played here,” Jordan said. “It's about $4.6 million. That's a tremendous amount of money that would be wasted if this referendum's passed."

The district says there are a number of problems with Zemp, including the fact that they don't own any of the land surrounding the stadium.

Supporters of the referendum say there's no guarantee the stadium will be bull-dozed if the referendum passes and they're showing people this rendering of what Zemp might become a mixed-use recreation field.

However, the superintendent says that's just "imagination" right now.

He says the bordering Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site would like to see that land returned to its natural state.

Regardless, he says he wants to build a new stadium everyone will be proud of, off-site.

But first, voters would have to give them the go-ahead next Tuesday.

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