FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – Construction of the Florence Tennis Center is months behind schedule, which means the center will not open in April as planned.
Ed Sprenger with the Florence Tennis Association said rain, snow and colder temperatures have kept the tennis center site wet for most of the winter. The road leading to the site is muddy and full of ruts and standing water.
"As soon as they got on site and started with the access road and dug down to get roots and stuff to start the foundation, it started raining, and that stuff filled up [with water], and it just has not had a chance to dry," Sprenger said.
The city of Florence has invested $3 million in the tennis center. The Bruce and Lee Foundation contributed $1.5 million, and Florence County has contributed approximately $500,000 for the center's access road. The Nucor Corporation also donated to the site construction. Dr. Eddie Floyd donated the land for the site.
Supporters say the investments and donations will build a center that creates opportunities for tennis tournaments like the Freedom Florence park has done for baseball and softball. The hope is Florence will be able to build on its current tennis community, which already hosts several tennis tournaments each year. Sprenger said the new center, with its 30 courts, will put Florence on the level of places such as Hilton Head and Greenville, meaning Florence could host larger adult tournaments.
"One of those events alone would bring in about four or five million dollars, which is what we're doing currently year round," Sprenger said.
Construction is now expected to take until at least August. Sprenger said the center may not be ready until October, in time for the Greater Florence Tennis Championships. He said the Florence Tennis Association and the city will now beginning bidding on other tournaments based on the later completion date.
Sprenger also said the delay is affecting plans to start and after-school programs at the center.
"[Children] need a good, good activity, and good positive role models," Sprenger said. "We're going to have this facility with courts available and a good safe environment where you can drop your kids off. They can be safe. You can know they're getting two to three hours of good activity time.
Sprenger said the after-school program would include three components for children: on-court time, study hall, and life skills education.