Marion County amphitheater to rebirth in 2015

Published: Dec. 17, 2014 at 1:13 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 18, 2014 at 4:41 AM EST
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MARION COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - After years of sitting stagnant, the amphitheater in Marion County is getting a revamp expected to create nearly 300 permanent jobs.

The Hartmann Group, based in Connecticut, is set to close on the 250-acre property this week, said Dr. Julie Norman, executive director of the Marion County Economic Development Commission. The venue will be renamed Swampfox Entertainment Complex.

The amphitheater is located on Highway 501, south of the Business 501 overpass.

Over a five-year period, the group plans to hire 272 permanent employees.

According to Norman, the types of job opportunities will include: “permanent food and beverage staff to oversee concession stands; workers to maintain the six buildings on the property; quite a few sales people will be hired to organize events; technical jobs will need to be filled to provide lighting, sound, Wi-Fi and more; retailers and equipment operators.”

“The plan is to have 80-100 jobs filled in the first year of operation, employed through Swampfox Entertainment,” Nelson said.

The plan is to open May 8, unveiling the overhaul.

“[Crews] were out there today. They have to get fiber laid, so that 20,000 people can have access to Wi-Fi,” Nelson said, proudly.

Nelson said she's been working on the project over a year. She said the Hartmann Group has been working on it for three or four years.

“[The development commission] has been working every day to try to get the right people to the table,” said Nelson.

“I think we've got the right team in place this time,” she added.

Nelson said Hartmann hired an executive director of the daytime Emmys - a producer and distributor of music and film - for the rebirth.

She said the plan is to film the events for cable TV to showcase a reality show of sorts.

“We're pretty confident we will be able to distribute what goes on at Swamp Fox Entertainment to a cable TV provider,” Nelson said. “This will put Marion County on the map.”

In addition to the multitude of ideas, Nelson said safety and security is at the forefront of the plan.

Electronic wristbands to prohibit underage drinking and monitor alcohol consumption are included in the action plan.

In an effort to prevent drinking and driving, “the chip in the wristband will be scanned before you buy alcohol, which will be limited to one drink per hour or whatever keeps you under the excess limit,” Nelson said.

A day after the scheduled grand opening, a big biker festival is planned - May 9-17, 2015

The event is scheduled with concerts by top-name talent, Nelson said.

Event-goers will have a chance to camp on-site and tents will be available for rent, she said.

“[Hartmann] wants to make Swampfox Entertainment Complex the ‘Sturgis of the East,'” said Nelson.

She explained that similar music festivals provide a lot for the area they are held in, as well as the surrounding areas. She believes holding events at this venue would encourage people to take extended trips to the beach.

The primary model involves multi-day events with a plan to get 10 events a year.

Concert event plans include: gospel, rock and roll, pop, country, sporting events and more.

In regards to the lack of success with the Carolina Amphitheater, “We need to - as a community - forget about the failures of the past. This is a new plan, it's a new day,” Nelson said.

“This 250-acre property with seating, a stage and millions of dollars in infrastructure is Marion County's greatest asset. We have to be optimistic!” said Nelson.

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