Business year in review: Expanded Florence Center bustling

By: Andrew Boardwine

FLORENCE, S.C. — Construction came to a close and the Florence Center, previously known as the Florence Civic Center, opened up for business in January of 2018.

Plans for the 25,000 square-foot expansion to the facility were announced in early 2017 and included an 8,000-square-foot courtyard, a 5,000-square-foot kitchen and 8,000 square feet in sub-dividable meeting space.

The expansion offered six different meeting rooms and a junior grand ballroom, which brings the total amount of space of the facility to 75,000 square feet.

Because of the expansion, Florence Center General Manager Paul Beard said that bookings had gone “through the roof” earlier this year.

“We’re much more than just a civic center. We do social functions — like weddings, reunions and anniversaries — and we also do corporate functions, such as training sessions and meetings,” Beard said. “All of those things, in addition to the entertainment, put heads in beds, which generates economic growth.”

In addition to weddings, meetings, reunions and anniversaries, the Florence Center hosted several events that brought thousands of people to the facility throughout the year. From WWE Live to Disney on Ice to Monster Jam to public ice skating and everything in between, the center stayed busy. The first event to benefit from the new space was the S.C. AgriBiz & Farm Expo in January.

The facility also boasted the creation of three brand new events: the S.C. Bridal Showcase, the Jingle Bell Market and the Greater Pee Dee State Fair & Expo.

During the summer, the Florence Center hosted the 2018 National Horseshoe Pitchers Association World Championship Tournament, which brought more than 1,000 pitchers to the Pee Dee area and more than $3.5 million in economic impact.

“After such great success hosting the NHPA 2018 World Tournament, we’re confident we can attract other sporting events and competitions to Florence,” said Nick Hooker, director of marketing for the Florence Center. “Our team has already been in contact with a major sports convention, a national tennis tournament, an international martial-arts competition, and several other potential clients.”

And less than a month later, the Florence Center announced that it would be bringing back arena football to the Pee Dee in the form of the Carolina Havoc. The Havoc are slated to start their season in the spring of 2019.

“We’ve talked with a lot of different teams from many different sports over the years,” Beard said. “I can truly assure you that we’re bringing a team here that is going to rock this town. They’re committed to community engagement, and they will put an exciting product on the field.”

To close out 2018, the Florence Center will host the Pepsi Carolina Classic, a showcase tournament for high school basketball teams from around the area.