Construction probably will begin sooner than originally planned on a rowing and sailing center along Skull Creek on Hilton Head Island.
Town officials said Monday they plan to start work early next year building a pier with a floating dock, fenced boat storage for existing sailing and rowing programs, restrooms and a community pavilion off Squire Pope Road. More parking, storage and meeting and office space could be added later as private donations come in, officials said.
Construction was scheduled for 2014 but was moved up after plans were pared to something more cost-effective, town director of public project and facilities Scott Liggett said.
"As quickly as we can get through the design, bidding and permitting processes, that's what we hope to build," Liggett said. "We hope to have it open no later than a year from now."
The town's Planning Commission endorsed the project last week. The Parks and Recreation Commission signed off on a conceptual layout for the center in March. Wood + Partners Inc. was hired to design the center in July.
Once proposed as a public-private partnership, the center will be completely funded by the town through tax increment financing revenue. Supporters were unable to raise enough money to help pay for the center, Liggett said
Sailing and rowing groups had pledged to donate about $1 million toward a $1.5 million center, then later promised $356,600 in private donations for a $1 million facility. Now, the town will pay the total $760,000 budgeted to build the center, with the sailing and rowing groups providing boats and equipment, Liggett said.
So far, supporters have purchased about $35,000 in rowing equipment, said Luther Strayer, a member of both the Carolina Sailing Center and the Palmetto Rowing Club of Hilton Head.
Sailing advocates hope to raise about $50,000 to buy 10 two-person dinghies, said John Rumsey, a member of the Carolina Sailing Center.
The Island Recreation Association would operate and manage the center with help from rowing and sailing club members and coaches. Specific programs and costs for using the center have yet to be established, said recreation association executive director Frank Soule. The town would contribute $67,000 a year toward operating costs, Liggett said.
Sailors and rowers say existing facilities are too small, too crowded or not open to the public.
"Being on an island surrounded by water, this is a perfect place for people to learn how to safely enjoy the water," Rumsey said. "It's also a confidence-building exercise that provides a different kind of recreation outside of island mainstays of golf, tennis and the beach, and provides a positive outlet for our youth."
He said sailing center members intend to invite area Boys & Girls Clubs to use the facility.
"We hope it will also be a tourist draw, getting people -- particularly high school and college rowing and sailing groups -- to participate in regattas on Hilton Head," he said.
Those who don't sail or row can also fish or crab off the pier and use the pavilion to host parties, family outings and community events, Liggett said.