Florence Civic Center looks to grow to catch up to surrounding a - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Florence Civic Center looks to grow to catch up to surrounding area

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - An expansion could be coming to the Florence Civic Center for the first time since it was built more than two decades ago.

The Florence Civic Center is proposing a more than $13 million dollar project that would bring the building out into the lower parking lot.

General Manager Kendall Wall said the civic center was built in 1993 with two goals in mind: to improve quality of life for people living in the area by bringing in concerts and family events and also to provide an economic boost for Florence by attracting conferences and conventions.

The expansion plans right now focus on improving the latter goal by adding space for groups to use during conventions.

"We've been keeping up with kind of a lost business report to kind of look at conferences that had been here, visited and wanted to come to Florence and we just couldn't accommodate," Wall said.

The plans include a wrap-around lobby, some renovations to the current ballroom and improvements to the kitchen.

There are also plans to add 12-15 thousand square feet of meeting space that would be divided into more than 10 different rooms, which is a selling point for many conventions that want to be able to break into smaller  independent sessions.

"What we're missing is the breakout space," Wall said. "This is when a conference comes in and they have a general assembly, but they also want ten break outs. That's what we're not able to do."

Wall said Florence County Council is taking a look at the plans then they'll also have to go through Florence City Council and the Civic Center's own commission. If everything is approved, construction could start a year from now with completion in summer or fall of 2017, Wall estimated. 

Another goal of the expansion is to keep up with the growth around the area.

"We're kind of behind right now," Wall said. "We're the problem child so to speak. We've got to catch up because everything else around here has grown and it's all new and looks good."

Holly Beaumier, director of the Florence Convention and Visitors Bureau said there area currently 1200 hotel rooms at the I-95 exit. As the civic center looks to expand, she said more hotel accommodations are in the works with two possible hotels coming to the area, adding a total of 300 rooms.

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