Mount Pleasant Recreation Department expects to generate additional revenue for the town and achieve new objectives due to the end of an eight-year agreement. On June 2, the Recreation Department will reattain five rectangular playing fields in town. Two are located at Patriots Point in the Cheryl Woods Flowers Complex and three are at Carolina Park.
The town leased these fields to United Soccer Academy Mount Pleasant in 2011. That lease comes to an end in a few weeks, but the Recreation Department has already made plans for the five fields for the fall season.
"What we're doing now is opening up the playing field to any groups that want to rent. August through December there's already five different groups that are renting fields from us," said Jimmy Millar, deputy recreation director for the Town of Mount Pleasant.
The five groups that have signed up to rent fields are United Soccer Academy Mount Pleasant, Cainhoy Athletic Soccer Club, Charleston Battery Soccer Club, Lowcountry Lacrosse and Charleston Elite Lacrosse.
Millar said instead of only renting to one club, they're renting as equally as they can to sports organizations.
"The fact that we're working with these groups and renting field space for these private sports groups throughout a year is definitely bringing in more revenue for the Town of Mount Pleasant," Millar said.
The revenue from all of the Recreation Department’s facility rentals fluctuates around $200,000 annually, depending on factors such as weather, number of teams and limited field space.
Millar explained the Recreation Department is in the business of providing recreation for the kids and adults within the community. The department will service people that sign up with them first and then the other private sports organizations and travel teams.
Councilmember Gary Santos, chair of the Recreation Committee sees this as a great opportunity for the Recreation Department to hold more programs on their fields. Santos said with more facilities, they'll be able to offer more programs and hopefully more summer camps.
"I think they've done a really good job in placing certain teams on certain fields. I say it's a yeoman's work, meaning it's very difficult to do because there's so many moving parts. Our Recreation Department, we're the best in the state and our staff is that reason. They work hard to make sure that our citizens get the best recreation experience that they can," Santos said.
Millar said that Santos was instrumental in supporting what they are trying to do as a department.
In the fall and spring seasons between football, lacrosse and soccer, the Recreation Department has hundreds of teams that need to use rectangular fields. The department is hopeful that having more fields means they won't get as beat up and that they can rest some fields that need maintenance when necessary.
The Recreation Department plans to focus on three major objectives upon getting five rectangular fields back this summer.
The first being the Recreation Department will rent fields to any interested organizations as fairly as they can. Millar said they haven't received complaints yet from the teams signed up for the fall season.
The second objective will be to expand their existing programs now that they have more field space. Millar explained there is a lot of conversation among parents about concussions being associated with tackle football. The department currently has a flag football program for 5-8 year olds. Now with more fields, they want to expand their flag football program for 9-14 year olds in the coming sport seasons. He said this would combat parents being concerned with putting their kids in football. Santos mentioned they also hope to have more athletic programs available for young kids.
Finally, the department has a goal to structure their programs to get little kids on the fields earlier in the day and follow it up with older sports teams.
"Once we go through this first season we'll know a lot more. When you get five fields back in the world of recreation, that's almost like hitting the lottery," Millar said.
As for USA Mount Pleasant, they have agreed to rent fields for the fall season. For the past eight years they have operated through the lease agreement with the Town of Mount Pleasant for field space. USA is in the process of completing a new field space to meet the needs of their club's growth. Guerins Bridge Soccer Complex will house four new fields, a pavilion, club office and parking lot.
The first phase of the complex will be located on 12 acres of land at the corner of Highway 17 and Guerins Bridge Rd. Upon completion of the complex, USA will determine if they still need to rent fields from the town.