FLORENCE, S.C. -- Construction for a new 25,000-square-foot expansion to the previously named Florence Civic Center began in early 2017 and, a year later, the center opened with a new name and a new brand.

The Florence Center, in the middle of the hospitality district in Florence, boasts the slogan, “We’re at the Center.”

Paul Beard, the general manager of the Florence Center, said that motto was part of the rebranding.

“We want to be at the center of what’s going on in Florence,” Beard said. “Florence is growing leaps and bounds, and we want to be a part of that.”

Beard said the new color scheme and brand ties together “rivers, roads and railroads” to bring the history of Florence together with a modern theme.

“We saw countless drawings, but until it’s done, you don’t really know what it will look like,” Beard said. “The facility is beautiful inside and out, and it kind of pops now. Before, we would get lost in the mesh of all the beautiful buildings surrounding us, but now it jumps out.”

The center opened in 1993 at a cost of $22 million after the city and county councils decided by one vote to build it. As the 25-year anniversary neared, both councils voted unanimously to fund the $15 million expansion project, then voted unanimously again to increase funding by $1 million.

The expanded facility includes an 8,000-square-foot courtyard, a 5,000-square-foot kitchen and 8,000 square feet in subdividable meeting space.

The expansion offers six meeting rooms and a junior grand ballroom, which brings the total amount of space to 75,000 square feet.

Each room has large LED projectors, and the audio systems come with hearing-aid technology for those who might be hearing impaired. The center also updated the outside of the facility with a new paint job and color scheme, along with a new logo.

“Bookings have gone through the roof since opening the new facility,” Beard said. “We’re much more than just a civic center. We do social functions like weddings, reunions and anniversaries, and we also do corporate functions, such as training sessions and meetings. All of those things, in addition to the entertainment, put heads in beds, which generate economic growth.”

Earlier this year, the Florence Center announced three new social events coming in 2018. The Greater Pee Dee state Fair & Expo will take place in September, the S.C. Bridal Showcase on Sunday, Sept. 30, and the Jingle Bell Market will be Nov. 15-18.

Beard said all three events are a chance to bring the local community together, as well as draw others to Florence.

“A lot of citizens around this area have never had an opportunity to travel to Columbia, so we brought a major midway operator to create this huge state fair event,” Beard said. “All of these events help serve the community and contribute to the overall quality of life in Florence.”

In addition to the social happenings, the Florence Center will host the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association World Tournament in July, an event that will have an estimated economic impact of $3.5 million to $5 million.

The Florence Center also will host the Greater Pee Dee Outdoor Showcase in March of 2019, a trade show for outdoorsmen.

Beard said the cycle of growth between Florence County and the Florence Center have helped shape the economy in the local area.

“It’s amazing,” Beard said. “I’ve been in Florence for six years now and, to see all the Fortune 500 companies coming to Florence, it’s clear that the community is growing leaps and bounds. There are more jobs being created, which is pushing our expansion, and then we are able to host events and conventions, which turn around and create more economic impact.

“We are just really excited to be able to be a part of it.”

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