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Revitalization efforts center on new stadium at Benedict

August 31, 2007

Posted on Fri, Aug. 31, 2007

Revitalization efforts center on new stadium at Benedict

By JAMES T. HAMMOND - jhammond@thestate.com

Benedict's new Charlie W. Johnson Stadium on Two Notch Road isn't just for football.

It's the linchpin in a long-term plan to revitalize a community.

"The professionals who have their offices around the stadium tell me they see this as very, very positive because it is bringing people, activities and action to the area," Jabari Simama, Benedict's vice president for Community Development, said. "Part of economic development is creating safe and secure communities and neighborhoods. All this activity there is good."

In recent years, a revitalization fire has been ignited under this once-blighted part of the city. Benedict College has been a primary mover and shaker. Consider:

• Benedict College's announcement that a developer will build a $5 million hotel on Two Notch Road. The school also announced a desire to develop academic course work related to the hospitality industry and has a business incubator across from the stadium.

• The Shoppes at Read Street -a $12 million to $15 million development that will include medical offices, a sit-down family restaurant and retail space

• The recent completion of the city's $10.5 million streetscaping of Two Notch Road

• A city-approved redevelopment plan that aims to transform more than 1,000 blighted acres in the city between Five Points and Forest Acres, including the area around Benedict

Simama said he is working to find a development partner for The Shoppes at Read Street. He expects development to take between one and two years to accomplish.

As the $13 million stadium develops a business in concerts and other types of non-football events, it will create jobs with the vendors and businesses that spring up around the stadium.

This weekend's Palmetto Capitol City Classic, the first classic to be held in the new stadium, sets out to create new Tiger football fans and fill the 11,000-seat stadium.

Benedict athletic director Willie Washington said the aim is to create a festival environment that will attract a variety of people. Some of them, he said, may become regular Benedict football fans after attending the festival.

Willie Jeffries, executive director of the classic, said he hopes to see 15,000 to 20,000 people on the grounds.

Past classics have been held at USC's Williams-Brice Stadium against rival teams like S.C. State University. Some of those games drew an average of 40,000 people.

Last year, attendance at Benedict games in Charlie W. Johnson Stadium averaged 5,600-6,000, Washington said. Construction delays caused the college to forgo holding its opening game in the new stadium.

This year, the stadium is ready for the opening game, complete with a state-of-the-art artificial playing surface like those used by some NFL teams. Last-minute preparations will mean parking and tailgating spots for thousands of people, officials said.

A perennial problem for the classic's planners has been the number of people who join in the tailgating and partying on the perimeter of the event without going to the game or contributing to the cost of the event. This year, the entire Benedict stadium property will be fenced. Anyone wishing to get inside will have to pay a $10 admission fee.

Game tickets can be purchased for $10 to $20, Jeffries said.

Washington said the college is doing everything it can to ensure game-day events don't disrupt the surrounding neighborhoods. The college even has committed to gathering any trash from the neighborhoods that is generated because of the classic.

Today, pre-game events include a blood drive on campus, a jazz concert and a golf tournament.

Reach Hammond at (803) 771-8474.

THE PALMETTO CAPITAL CITY CLASSIC

Parking

Benedict College is erecting fenc-ing around the stadium site and charging $10 per car or per walk-on person to get into the venue.

The $10 tickets can be bought at the Benedict College Welcome Cen-ter at Taylor and Waverly streets or at the Business Development Center across Two Notch Road from the stadium.

Game-day tickets are marked with the approach for different classes of tickets. Entrances will be from Edgewood, Two Notch and Pinehurst streets.

Today

3rd Annual Garnell McDonald Memorial Golf Tournament

8 a.m., Northwoods Golf Club

Shotgun start

Red Cross Blood Challenge, sponsored by the Benedict College Booster Club

11 a.m., Swinton Campus Center

Jazz in the Capital City, sponsored by KISS 98.5 FM, The Jazz Cafe and GEG Entertainment

Featuring Ken Ford and special guest

State Museum

Doors open at 7 p.m.

Saturday

Vendor Village and Tailgate Party, barbecue cook-off

9 a.m.-3 p.m., Charlie W. Johnson Stadium

Pre-game stage show

9 a.m.-10:15 a.m., Charlie W. Johnson Stadium, practice field

S.C. high school band challenge

12 p.m., Charlie W. Johnson Sta-dium

6th Annual Palmetto Capital City Classic

Benedict College vs. Livingstone College

Special half-time show

3:30 p.m. kickoff, Charlie W. Johnson Stadium

Drumline competition sponsored by Dream Helpers Network

Charlie W. Johnson Stadium, immediately after game

Old School Party, sponsored by Allen Love / Black Tie Network

9 p.m., Radisson hotel, 2100 Bush River Road

Monday

Labor Day Gospel Grand Finale, featuring Luther Barnes and Rev. F. C. Barnes.

5 p.m., Bethlehem Baptist Church Family Life Center, 1037 Eastman St., Columbia

For more information, call the Palmetto Capital City Classic Head-quarters (United Black Fund Build-ing)

2219 C Two Notch Road, Co-lumbia, SC 29204

(803) 758-5946

Source: The State Newspaper

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