Recreation Commission Balks on Blythewood Ball Fields

BLYTHEWOOD – Members of the Town’s Committee on Athletic Fields learned at a meeting on Tuesday evening that the Richland County Recreation Commission is backing away from promises it made to the committee last January to spend $500,000 to build a baseball/softball four-plex next year on 8 acres behind Bethel-Hanberry Elementary School in downtown Blythewood. The project was to be funded with money allocated for Blythewood recreation from a County bond. The Richland 2 School District has agreed to lease the 8 acres to the County Recreation Commission for construction of the four-plex.

During a meeting with the Recreation Commission last week, however, Athletic Fields Chairman Bob Mangone said he was told by the Commission Chairman, James Brown Jr., that the Commission could no longer afford to fund four fields at the Bethel-Hanberry site because a portion of the $500,000 is now earmarked for several upgrades to the current Blythewood baseball/softball fields on Boney Road, including restroom renovations, the installation of lights on the tennis courts and a fence around the park.

Mangone reported that Brown suggested the upgrades could take as much as half of the $500,000. He said Brown said the Commission was still committed to building fields at the Blythewood site, but that the Commission might only be able to afford to build two fields right now, not four. Brown could not be reached for comment before press time.

Mangone said he plans to meet with Blythewood County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson next week to discuss the issue and find out if the County might be able to cover the upgrades to the current fields with other revenue sources. Committee member Paige Brown suggested that, before proceeding further, the Blythewood committee should get something in writing as to the Commission’s intentions for building the four-plex, the total cost for the project and a timeline.

“At this point,” Mangone said, “we really don’t know how much it costs to build a field. If the Commission doesn’t have enough money to build four fields, we will have to look at some other options to raise the money.”

One option, he said, would be to go to the businesses for additional funds. He said there are also various grant possibilities. Mangone said Richland 2’s Chief Planning Officer Fred McDaniel has also offered his staff and the District’s grant writer to find grant money for the four-plex.

At press time, Dickerson had not returned a call to The Voice. Dickerson is scheduled to attend the Town Council meeting on Monday, July 29 at the Manor.

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