By: Andrew Boardwine, Morning News
FLORENCE, S.C. – The city of Florence held a grand opening to celebrate the completion of construction at the new Florence Soccer Complex on Thursday.
The 14-field facility, at 3701 W. Palmetto St. on Soccer Way, was designed by AECOM Engineering and constructed by D&L Sitework.
Mayor Stephen Wukela said the city was excited to open the new complex.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Wukela said. “The soccer community and the community at large is excited. This is a fine facility and it will serve our young people well and generate an enormous amount of economic activity as well.”
Wukela said the soccer complex, located right off I-95 on US-76, is the first of many projects to be completed this year. The city looks to open the brand new Pearl Moore Gym on Barnes Street, and will have about $15 million in assorted investments to use in the parks and recreation system.
“We’ve already seen the impacts of sports tourism here in Florence,” Wukela said. “What we’ve found is that we can build facilities that are of higher quality, funded by partners like the Drs. Bruce & Lee Foundation and the massive amount of money that comes from the hospitality tax, coming from those that stay in our hotels. Through that, you see economic development. As you see hotels and restaurants begin to pop up here, you’re going to continue to see growth.”
The Drs. Bruce & Lee Foundation donated more than 90 acres of property to the city and contributed another $6 million toward field design and construction. The foundation is also providing additional funding, pledged at $1.5 million, for construction and design of a Soccer Center that will soon be built on the site.
“We hope that this property will not just be a great soccer complex, but that it will develop,” said Edward Floyd, board member of the Drs. Bruce & Lee Foundation. “There are many other things in the works out here. Florence is doing great and we have a great community filled with excellent leaders.”
The South Carolina Parks, Recreation & Tourism Department provided a $50,000 grant to assist with project construction. The city contributed to the project with $395,000 for water, sewer and storm water utilities and has also budgeted for staffing and materials for ongoing expenses.
Florence County helped the city by funding the relocation of a portion of Twin Church Road for the installation of a new entrance road to the complex through the proceeds from a countywide penny capital sales tax at $1,040,000.
“This is a wonderful project,” Florence County Councilman Willard Dorriety said. “Soccer has now surpassed baseball as the No. 1 played youth sport in the United States. The economic development that this can bring to this area and transform this intersection is important. We all need to continue to work together for the betterment of our community.”
The Florence Soccer Complex begins play with the first recreation league games on Saturday.