GREENVILLE - Neptune Island Waterpark made another splash for the city of Hartsville, winning a top achievement award from the Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC).
City officials accepted a Municipal Achievement Award during the MASC’s Annual Meeting on July 20. The city won in the 5,001 – 10,000 population category. Twenty-nine cities and towns submitted their projects and initiatives.
After experiencing an enthusiastic response to its existing splash pad, the city of Hartsville looked to provide more opportunities for local summertime entertainment, the MASC said in a press release.
City leaders knew they wanted to push for a greatly expanded facility at the recreation complex that would broaden Hartsville's reputation as an attractive place to live and to provide a regional tourism destination.
The city fulfilled that ambition in 2018 with the opening of Neptune Island Waterpark. The scope of this attraction is unusual for a rural community without direct interstate highway access. The park offers slides, a wave pool and lazy river, and can accommodate 1,300 visitors.
“It is such an honor for Hartsville to receive this award among many other cities in this state that have done amazing things,” said Hartsville City Manager Natalie Zeigler. “Our city is filled with so many progressive people that are constantly striving to make Hartsville a better place. We have certainly come a long way, but there is always more to be done and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for Hartsville.”
"Neptune Island Waterpark is an innovative project that put Hartsville on the map as a tourist destination and offers local residents an extraordinary recreational amenity," said Eric Budds, interim executive director for the Municipal Association.
Neptune Island Waterpark opened in June 2018 and brought in 64,000 visitors from 25 states and eight countries during the shortened season. Planners have set a goal of 80,000 visitors for the first full season in 2019.
The city funded the waterpark project with Combined System Improvement Revenue Bonds, in which the city's utility system and waterpark were combined into a single enterprise fund — the first of its kind in South Carolina. In addition to revenue from the profits from the waterpark, the debt service will be funded by hospitality tax dollars. The city’s hospitality tax is the tax on prepared foods and beverages sold in the city.
The city also used a capital lease for one-time opening capital expenditures and withheld a project fund to be used over the first three years of operations to continue to expand and improve the waterpark.
Neptune Island marks a major milestone in the development of the 93-acre Byerly Park Recreation Complex, which also welcomes families from around the nation every year for various baseball and softball tournaments.
City officials are planning expansions to the water park, with growth based on the feedback from Hartsville's tourists. The city is completing research for next phase of expansion, a statement from the city said. “There is no determined time frame at this point, but the city is excited for what the future holds at Neptune Island,” the statement said.
The award-winning entries represent innovative projects undertaken by Municipal Association member cities and towns, the association said. Information and a video about the project are available on the association's website www.masc.sc (keyword: Achievement Awards).
The Municipal Association of South Carolina initiated the Achievement Awards in 1987 to recognize and encourage innovations and excellence in local government.