Funds could improve parking, lights

AIKEN --- Some better parking and lighting could be coming to the USC Aiken Convocation Center.

Aiken County Administrator Clay Killian said the university recently made county officials aware that the county could be eligible for about $50,000 a year from a state fee.

Previously, all of the fee, which is charged on tickets to major tourism and recreation sites, has gone to the state. The convocation center is the only county site that collects the fee.

Mr. Killian said the county applied and was recently granted approval through the South Carolina Council for Economic Development.

The only catch is that the money must be spent on infrastructure projects within five miles of where the fees are collected.

That being the case, Mr. Killian said, officials are considering letting USC Aiken use the money for parking and other enhancements.

"They cut back on the building just to make budget," Mr. Killian said of the convocation center. "And overflow parking is gravel."

USC Aiken officials say they're excited about the possibility of using the fee funds.

"South Carolina tax law is allowing us to receive a rebate of part of the admissions tax paid to the state from ticket sales for events at the convocation center," explained Ginger Hudock, the university's vice chancellor for business and finance.

In addition to parking, she said, the university would like to use the money for additional lighting outside the convocation center.

She said additional parking lot locations have been identified.

"We are also very glad that at least part of the state taxes paid by patrons to the center will be returned to Aiken County to be reinvested," she said.

The convocation center has played host to large crowds in the past, including several high school graduations recently. A World Wrestling Entertainment event is scheduled July 18, school officials said.

Reach Preston Sparks at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.