After more than six years of planning, assembling financing, and debating what features should be included and what ideas discarded in public forums and city council meetings, the day will finally arrive July 31 for the $8.5 million, 35,000-square-foot multi-purpose Hardeeville Recreation Center to be unveiled to the public.
Hardeeville Mayor Harry Williams will preside in a 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony, followed by four hours of festivity with tours, demonstrations, music refreshments and giveaways.
Williams has been saying for quite some time that he is looking forward to the new facility becoming a major asset to the quality of life in Hardeeville (which includes Margaritaville and parts of Sun City) as well as an economic driver in the immediate vicinity of its location at the corner of John Smith Road and McTeer Street just off the city’s main thoroughfare.
Jennifer Combs, director of the City of Hardeeville’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department, said the key features of the facility will include an NCAA-size basketball court with seating for 1,000 spectators, plus additional court space for volleyball, racquetball, pickleball and more basketball. There will be an indoor walking track, a state-of-art fitness center plus a 2,200-square-foot events room.
The events space can be divided into three meeting areas and is larger than any other indoor meetings venue in Hardeeville. It will have the capacity to host activities such as galas and community forums that have previously been a challenge or impossible. Plus, the spaces will have concession facilities for catering.
Williams said he hopes the venue will “bring the diverse and fast-growing city of Hardeeville closer together in many positive ways.”
The center also is expected to be a boost for added tourism revenue. The Recreation Department will invite regional sports and recreation programs to use the Hardeeville facility for invitational tournaments. The NCAA-sized basketball court is expected to be a major attraction, as will the public pickleball and racquetball courts.
Hugo Montenegro, the recently named Recreation Center manager, is already reaching out to pickleball organizations in South Carolina and Georgia to attract tournaments to the new facility.
The tourism feature of the Recreation Center was a key element in providing a source of funding to build the facility. Of the $8.5 million in construction and development costs, $6.5 comes from accommodations tax revenues (ATAX) with the remaining $2 million from borrowed funds – a fixed 15-year loan from BB&T Bank at 3.1%.
Combs believes the state-of-the-art, fully equipped fitness center will attract a strong following from visitors using local hotel and motel accommodations as well as from residents, who will be offered membership benefits. Of particular appeal is the stylish indoor walking track around the basketball arena.
“Quality of life is one of the highest reasons why people choose their communities to live in,” said Combs, “and this new facility will serve our guests, neighbors and visitors in many positive ways.”
Kingston Rhoads is a freelance writer covering the Lowcountry.