Western Horry County could see a new arena and public space in the near future, and the government is forming a special committee to figure out what it would look like.
The new arena could be built using money from Horry County Electric Cooperative and would most likely be in the northern, rural parts of the county.
The cooperative is looking to build a center for its own use and is teaming up with Horry County to possibly allow for new public space focused on highlighting agriculture. In order to achieve the county’s and the cooperative’s goals, Horry County Council’s Infrastructure and Regulation committee appointed another committee to get the project closer to construction.
“We’ve been kicking this can down the road for four or five years,” Committee Chair Al Allen said. “We need to get the ball rolling.”
In addition to the arena, the site could possibly have a civic center, baseball and soccer fields or a pool. The hope is for it to accommodate more county uses like horseback riding, camping or agriculture showcases.
County staff presented the I&R committee with a few options of what this new center might look like. They also provided economic studies from Coastal Carolina University and Clemson University on what impact a center might have, as well as an overview of other agriculture centers across the South.
The cooperative is looking for a space it can use to hold meetings and engage with its customer base, which is largely in the western part of the county.
The cooperative has $1.2 million in economic development funds from the state, with a possible $400,000 a year available for operation cost. Determining how to fund the rest of the project will be a subject of discussion for the new committee.
The committee was presented with a handful of options, ranging from a basic park/meeting center to a large complex with pool, open air stalls, RV camping and an arena.
An arena could host horse shows, rodeos and other livestock showcases. Allen said visitors will bring their animals, RVs and families to Horry County for the shows, generating a lot of revenue for the area.
The cheapest option would cost up to $17 million to build with $1 million annual operational costs. The most expensive option would be closer to $40 million with $2 million in operations.
All of the options would have to be built in phases over several years. But McCullough said partnerships could be made with a university like CCU, Clemson or even Duke University.
“If you can get sponsors on board, then we can do more,” Committee Member Danny Hardee said.
Allen said he does not want to confuse people with this project. While there is potential, it can relieve some of western Horry County’s recreational needs, he said it is not the final solution to getting rural areas a recreational center.
“There are two obligations here,” he said. “The Horry Electric has an obligation to its customers and Horry County has an obligation to its constituents to follow up and follow through on what was promised and to provide the citizens in the western part of the county the same rec facilities as in other parts of the county.”