Q&A: Heritage Park/Holiday Light Show

Recently, I received a question from a resident regarding Heritage Park.  She wanted to know whether or not the park would be closed again this year for the holiday light show. As she correctly pointed out, “The past two years, the city has closed the entire park for about a three month period to accommodate the holiday light show. Last year, the park closed starting around October 12th and remained closed until about January 15th. This is about a 13-week period, so a full 25% of the calendar year.”

As I told her in my response, “Let me start by saying that I agree with you: closing a public park for a quarter of the year is unacceptable.”  And I’m not the only one. Many residents agree, and they’ve voiced their concern over the past year.  When I reached out to Mr. Robbie Davis, Parks and Recreation Director, he said he’d heard and understood this concern and was already working with TRZ to try to keep the park open to the public as long as possible.  TRZ did its part by negotiating with the company responsible for the light show to try to keep the park open longer, with the goal being to close it no longer than one month.  Ultimately, they were unable to reach an agreement to that end, and TRZ decided to forego the holiday lights show this year.

In the words of Mr. Roger Dickson from TRZ, the “park being closed that long for taxpayers is just not the right thing to do.”  And I agree.  It’s a public park; it’s your park.  If it’s closed to all but paying customers for an entire quarter of the year, you’re not getting to make use of your park.

So unfortunately there will be no holiday light show this year, but the park will be open for you, the public, to use…just as it was intended.

Simpsonville SC will have one of the best concert venues in SC!

“What if we could guarantee you more, bigger, better concerts at the Amphitheater, thus increasing your revenue—without costing you a single penny more?”

That’s the question Roger Dickson of TRZ Entertainment brought to Council several months ago.

But doesn’t that sound too good to be true?  Who gets something for nothing?  No one, of course.  But Mr. Dickson and TRZ weren’t lying: they weren’t asking for a single penny more than we’ve been giving them.

What they did ask was for us to “put a little more skin in the game,” to make a bigger investment—not in cash, but in commitment level.  They asked for a 5-year contract for management of the amphitheater.  Up until now, they’ve been getting a one-year contract every year.

What do we get in return? Exactly what they promised—but we’re not relying on their word for it.  A couple months ago, TRZ presented us with an economic impact study, conducted by an expert third party at their expense, illustrating the huge gains we would receive from a stronger concert schedule.  This data, provided at Council’s request, drove our decision to approve the 5-year contract at last night’s Council meeting. Those bigger, better, more impactful concerts will come because TRZ is investing in a long-term contract with Live Nation, the largest live entertainment company in America.  This is something TRZ would be unable to do without a longer term commitment from the City.

This new agreement guarantees a better concert schedule—with more big-name entertainers.  This is possible (in part) because, as the largest live entertainment company in the country, Live Nation is able to buy full concert series and schedule whole tours across the country at the various concert venues with whom they contract.  And this means a bigger economic impact for Simpsonville.

This was no overnight decision, nor one we took lightly: it was something that TRZ and the City have been working on for some time.  And last night, we finally arrived at a contract to which both parties agreed. Council unanimously approved the new contract after an Executive Session to review that final contract.

Many thanks to Mr. Roger Dickson from TRZ, Mr. Robbie Davis (Department Head, Simpsonville Parks & Recreation), Mr. Eddie Case (former City Administrator), Mr. Wesley Williams (current City Administrator), and Mr. David Holmes (City Attorney) for all of their hard work on this project.  Thanks to their efforts, we will now have one of the best concert venues in South Carolina—and Simpsonville will reap the rewards of its success.

 

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Harmony Garden

Have you checked out the Simpsonville Harmony Garden lately?

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Located on Academy Street, the garden was started/founded in 2012 and sponsored by Lowe’s.  The Garden features 6600 sq. ft. of gardening area with in ground rows and raised beds.  The garden uses conventional practices of gardening with planting in the fall and spring seasons.  On site consists of a tool shed, compost bins, sprinkler irrigation, shelter, and restrooms (located inside art center).

Louise Barrett is our current Master Gardener.  She is employed with Lowe’s.  Dianne Carson, who runs the Simpsonville Farmers’ Market, was our first Master Gardener.

Some of the plants include tomatoes, peppers, squash, okra, beans, cabbage, potatoes, etc.  In the One Simpsonville spirit, the food, when harvested, is donated to a local food pantry.

The Master Gardener is assisted by volunteers (she can always use more!). The recreation maintenance staff contributes by preparing the site each season.

Harmony Garden Mission Statement:
1.  Plant vegetables and flowers.
2.  Create an attractive, beneficial, and edible garden.
3.  Teach and grow.
4.  Share our bounty with the community.
5.  Take pride in accomplishing our goal.

Thanks to Lou Hutchings for the photos!

What last night tells us: it’s time to commit.

Last night I had the opportunity to speak (with some other candidates) at a Campaign Barbecue sponsored by a group of

citizens. It was a great opportunity to meet voters. I thought it was primarily a meet and greet until we were asked by one of the hosts to take the microphone and deliver a 2-minute speech, highlighting our platforms.

Halfway through mine, I was interrupted by applause. What did I say? This:

“We need a stronger commitment to the arts, to community and cultural programs and services. This includes things like the Swamp Rabbit Trail, an Arts & Cultural Center…”

Some in our community say we do not need an Arts and/or Cultural Center. They say we have adequate access to arts & culture in Mauldin and Fountain Inn. “Support our sister cities” is their rally cry.

I disagree with that. It’s not that we shouldn’t support Fountain Inn and Mauldin or take advantage of the opportunities they offer. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have our own.

campaign bbq speakingAnd the 140 people who erupted in applause last night clearly agree. They’re not the only ones—every where I go, I hear the same support from the people of our city. The people of our city want access to the arts here in Simpsonville. They want the city government to encourage and support and do its part in getting the Swamp Rabbit Trail in and through Simpsonville. They agree—now is the time to focus on getting that done.

And that’s not just because they think it would be cool to have a community theater right here in town. Not just because they want a safe, pleasant place to ride bikes and enjoy nature. Those are reasons. But in talking with them, it’s clear that they know what I know (and have been saying throughout this campaign):

Community development is economic development.

Just look at what the Swamp Rabbit Trail (SRT) has done for Traveler’s Rest. If you don’t know about the economic impact it’s had on that city, you should stop in one day soon. And see what SRT could do for Simpsonville.

According to the Greenville Rec website, the SRT served 501,000 people last year, yielding $6.7 million in tourism revenue. So not only would the SRT improve our quality of life in Simpsonville by offering a new opportunity for recreation, it could also be a serious boon to our economy. It’s a no-brainer, in my opinion: we need to bring the SRT to Simpsonville, sooner rather than later.

Our city government needs to commit to these things as part of a long-term goal for the city to provide access to the arts and to create economic development through community development. The city government—lead by its council and mayor—should be doing everything within its power to encourage growth in Simpsonville in these ways.

I get that. So do the everyday citizens who live here. It’s time to commit to making it happen. And that’s why I’m running for city council.