Greenwood County was ready to play ball Tuesday, as designers unveiled three possible layouts for the new, $10 million renovations and upgrades to the Wilbanks Sports Complex.
In a meeting at the Wilbanks EMS-fire station on Highway 72/221, architect Kurt Ludwick and Bob Brookover from Clemson University’s parks, recreation and tourism management department showed three proposed conceptual drawings for the new park space. More than a dozen residents came out to ask questions and comment that will be used as feedback when finalizing the park’s design.
The park’s renovation and expansion is being funded by about $9 million in capital project sales tax funds, along with $1 million the county allocated for an ADA-compliant playground facility.
For these funds, the three designs shown would each provide fencing and signage to beautify the entrance to the park, two new soccer fields, a competition football field that could be configured for other sports, along with restrooms and concessions facilities. It also pays for four additional pickleball courts, extensions of three existing baseball fields and more than a mile of walking tracks.
Each plan takes out some bleacher space from the existing 3-4,000-seat Legion ball field to add lawn space, along with room to build a stage that could be used as an amphitheater or event space behind home plate. The existing farmers’ market building would be used to house maintenance, and the market would move to additional greenspace added beside the facility’s entrance, where paved parking spaces are now. The parking in front of the farmers’ market will remain as the main hub for all the new facilities.
At the center of the five existing baseball fields, each design builds a new concession stand and restroom hub, along with trees around it to provide shaded spaces for guests.
The differences in the three designs are in how these facilities are laid out. In option A, two soccer fields are aligned east to west, and are placed to the right of the entrance when driving into the Wilbanks complex. The new football field is further down the road on the same side, placed over what is currently one of the park’s multiple baseball fields.
Option B brings the football field up toward Highway 72/221, and it’s the first feature on the right when driving in. The two soccer fields are aligned north to south, and dropped below the football field. Options B and C keep the existing baseball diamond that would be replaced with the football field in option A.
Each option includes space for an indoor sporting facility intended to contain multiple basketball gyms, walking tracks and other amenities — but this facility is not included in the capital project sales tax budget. This is a proposed facility that could be designed and placed at the Wilbanks complex if it’s funded at a later date.
Options A and B put this proposed indoor facility beside the current parking spaces, in an area currently overgrown that will need to be cleared out. In option C, the indoor facility is moved toward Highway 72/221 and is the first thing guests see on their left when driving in from the highway. The pickleball courts are moved beside the parking lot in option C.
“This place has good bones, but it needs a facelift,” said Brad Cuttill, Greenwood County Parks and Recreation director. “Doing the multi-purpose fields is a great new option, and pickleball.”
Cuttill said he’s most excited about how the central concession and restroom facility, along with the shade on the infield of the five existing baseball fields will set Greenwood’s parks facilities apart from other counties. He also said the $1 million going toward ADA-accessible playground equipment is a must-have.
“We are not compliant at all in our ADA, and to have a nice, compliant playground for everyone will be really nice,” he said.
Residents asked questions and shared concerns about the facility, along with their praise of the proposed design elements. One tennis player said he liked how option C split the new pickleball courts apart from the existing tennis courts, which will help reduce the sound of these very active games.
Another resident asked why the indoor sports facility wasn’t being built first and why these outdoor fields were prioritized over an indoor complex that could bring in more revenue for the parks department. Cuttill and Brookover explained it was a matter of renovating existing facilities and fields that are nearing the end of their lifespan and are seeing wear and tear.
“Do we improve what we already have first, then build something new, or do we build something new and let what we have deteriorate,” asked Cuttill.
Others asked about pool facilities, which Brookover said have too high an up-front cost for the county to fund on its own. Another resident wanted to see more consideration for older residents, as many of the proposed features highlight sports targeted toward a younger crowd.
Capital Project Sales Tax Coordinator Josh Skinner attended the meeting and told residents he would relay his notes from their discussion to the parks committee helping decide the final design of the Wilbanks complex upgrades. These design concepts will be refined and brought before county council for a final vote on the design, before it starts getting engineered and bid out for construction.