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Florence Sports Complex

By Scott Chancey

March 23, 2023

“It will be a mixture of satisfaction and relief. Maybe a little scared. Now that it’s here, it becomes more of an operational piece,” said Tim Wilson, athletic director for the City of Florence Athletics and Sports Tourism Department. “It’s fun when you’re building it and all that. And now, we’ve got to run it and make sure it’s staffed and doing everything properly.

City manager Randy Osterman is also enthusiastic. “As we continue to improve and add sports facilities, it opens up much more opportunity for sports tourism events generating hospitality revenue for the city and businesses within Florence,” he said.

To have a chance at generating more money, a lot of it had to be spent. According to Wilson, construction costs for the entire complex were $19,539,500. It cost $343,072 for each of the baseball fields. And as for the track-and-field facility, that cost $1,891,949.42.

THE BEGINNING “The idea for the Florence Sports Complex, as well as other parks, recreation, and athletic capital projects that have been completed over the past several years, began in early 2017 when City Council approved a resolution to issue a $15 million bond for construction and improvements to the City’s park system,” said Chuck Pope, public works director for the City of Florence. The logistics were then put into play.

“The City contracted with FitFields, a Division of The Dodd Studio from Fort Mill, to provide strategy, consulting and design services for the Sports Complex. Edcon, Inc., from Peak, South Carolina, was hired as the general construction contractor for the Sports Complex,” Pope said. “Construction began in May 2021. It has been a pleasure working with both FitFields and Edcon in the design and construction phases of the project.”

Pope then talked about the proverbial hurdles faced during construction. “One of our biggest challenges in the construction process of our facility was the supply chain issues that our contractors had to deal with over the past couple of years,” Pope said. “Fortunately, our construction time schedule allowed us some leeway in these delays and enough time to get the project completed for this year’s opening ceremony of our youth league programs.”

“We want to make sure it’s enjoyable for the community.”FINANCIAL IMPACT It is also expected to be an economic home run for the community.

“We’re averaging around $9 million a year in economic impact through the sports tourism market, and I think we can grow that,” Wilson said. “With this facility, I think we can get up to a $15-16 million economic impact each year.”




TIME TO PLAY Florence’s second season of Little League Baseball is upon us. “The City of Florence, in January 2022, decided to bring all our existing youth baseball leagues under Little League Baseball,” Pope said. “The City felt that the most efficient, effective, and equitable way to serve all City of Florence residents and youth participants is through this conversion of the City’s baseball programs playing at Maple Park, McLeod Park, and Northside Park.


ON YOUR MARK ... And then, there is the track-and-field facility. “The track is very exciting,” Wilson said. “The stadium is a cool thing; the baseball fields are cool things, but (the track) is something the city has needed for a while. Our track program (Florence Track Club) has a lot of kids in it. And it’s exciting to finally give them a space.”


According to FTC president Winston Stewart, past track practices had primarily been held at West Florence High School. Wilson was the next option. Then, if no other place could be found, practice was canceled.


Then, FTC would host meets at Darlington High. “That was due to the unavailability of a facility (in Florence) that had the capacity to accommodate 800-plus athletes from other clubs around the state and their families,” Stewart said. Now, that will change.


“The new facility will allow the FTC to better manage and conduct safe and effective practices for the athletes (ages 5 to 18, with typically more than 200 total athletes each spring),” Stewart said. “For the broader track and field community (including other local clubs, high schools, and colleges), the new facility offers a good alternative to host and participate in events at a quality facility, with potentially the capacity to accommodate large crowds, such as for state level or multi-state championships. “For the city of Florence, the new facility adds to the variety of sporting events to attract visitors to benefit the local economy.”



In addition to the 525-space parking lot at Carolina Bank Field (it can also be used for youth events), another lot of the same size will be near the youth baseball fields and track. There is also parking space at the tennis center if there isn’t a major tennis tourney at the time.


There is one concessions/restroom building for the youth baseball/track area. “We may have to utilize porta potties for fields 5 and 6 (the lower two fields) and for large tournaments and track events,” Wilson said. Food trucks are a possibility, too. There are two portable sets of bleachers at each field and the track, except for fields 5 and 6 because the sets of bleachers originally meant for there are now at the track. Soon, according to Wilson, sets of bleachers will be back at fields 5 and 6.



There are portable scorers’ boxes that can be put outside the gate behind home plate, and for judges/scorers to sit at for track meets. Not only is the track wired for possible electronic timing, it’s also possible at youth baseball fields for games to be live-streamed (one camera behind the plate, another for center field).


Pope also talked about what went into the FSC’s youth baseball fields. “The youth baseball fields that have been constructed are first class. The ballfields were laser graded and constructed with an underdrain system, a sand-based compacted subgrade, 7” of root zone material, and the grass surface is Tifway 419 Bermuda sod,” Pope said. “The infield surface is a mixture of clay, sand, and surface conditioner. The young people will now be playing on ballfields like what they see the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Clemson Tigers play on at their respective universities.” According to Wilson, fields 5 and 6 (no grass infields) can possibly be converted for Little League Softball games.


Whatever sport is played at the sports complex, it’s obvious the future is bright.

“From a sports tourism perspective, the new complex provides us with the opportunity to bid on track events and larger baseball tournaments that we’ve not been able to host in Florence. An increase in tournaments and sports tourism related events benefits our hospitality industry and entire community through economic impact,” said Jade Perkins, tourism development manager with the Florence Convention and Visitors Bureau.


“The addition of new venues and complexes over the last few years has really helped put Florence on the map as a premier host for amateur sporting events in the Southeast.”


Youth baseball teams have been practicing on the FSC’s fields since March 13. The City of Florence’s other parks, meanwhile, will maintain big roles.


“Freedom Florence will continue to be a big tournament hub,” Wilson said. “It’s also home to the youth softball program, which is also part of Little League, so that won’t change. Football will continue to be over there. This is a partnership with Freedom. Parks like Maple Park, McLeod Park and Northside Park − we’re still utilizing those for practice and will continue to do so.


“Depending on the growth of the baseball program, we might have to go back and utilize those for games,” he added. “This year, our T-Ball program will play at McLeod some.”

The search is under way for a Florence Sports Complex director.


“I believe this Sports Complex will provide first class facilities for our young athletes in the Florence community,” Pope said. “I also believe that this complex, along with other city facilities (Freedom Florence, Florence Soccer Complex, Florence Tennis Center, and Pearl Moore Basketball Center) offer an opportunity for the City of Florence to be very competitive in the recruitment of various sports tourism events.”