USCB to ask for $57M in public money for various projects

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comMay 19, 2014 

New campus construction proposed by USC Beaufort in its presentation to the Beaufort County Sales Tax Committee on May 19, 2014.

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Groups across Beaufort County have asked for more than $290 million in public money to pay for a sweeping list of projects -- and now the University of South Carolina Beaufort is adding to the list.

At the Beaufort County Capital Project Sales Tax Commission meeting Monday night, the school will ask for $57 million to be funded by a proposed 1 percent sales tax. This financial support would help USCB with a series of construction projects to expand the Hilton Head Gateway Campus.

The school has four projects for which they are requesting funding, listed in order of priority:

  • Convention-Civic Center: $35 million The first project is a 94,000-square-foot convention and civic center that would house a 4,000-seat arena, 12 conference breakout rooms, plus offices and locker rooms for an athletic and entertainment venue. Plans also include adding an additional 750 parking spaces. USCB Chancellor Jane T. Upshaw said this facility could be used for academic instruction, concerts, conferences, trade shows and other community events -- providing a space unlike any other already in the county.

  • Recreation and Sports Facility: $16 million The second major project is a sports facility to encompass a 1,000-seat baseball stadium, a 500-seat softball stadium, a soccer field with bleacher seating for 400, and a field house for coaches' offices, locker rooms and athletic training facilities. The outdoor facilities will not only serve as home fields for USCB athletic teams, but also as a venue for regional athletic tournaments and other special events, Upshaw said.

  • Center for the Arts renovations: $2 million For its third project, the school wants to renovate the auditorium at the Center for the Arts on its Historic Beaufort Campus. The building was last renovated in 1989 and requires improved technology for its lighting and sound systems.

  • Osher Lifelong Learning Institute building: $4 million For its last project, USCB wants to construct a one-story building to house its Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a program that works to meet the needs and interests of Beaufort County's adult learners. This program has continued to grow in popularity and enrollment over the years, and Upshaw said the school's present facilities can no longer accommodate the students.

The chancellor said the tax commission should strongly consider these projects as they are not only beneficial to the university, but could be an economic boost for the entire community and region.

As USCB has continued to grow and develop over the years, it has had a significant economic impact on the county. According to numbers provided by the school, it now accounts for $75 million in annual economic impact, having grown from $19 million in its formative years.

However, the list of funding requests exceeds the amount expected to be raised from the sales tax if passed by voters in the November election -- about $240 million if in place for eight years.

The commission has until the beginning of June to create a list of projects.

County Council must approve all the proposals by Aug. 15 if the sales tax measure is to go before voters in November.

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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