Ashley Smith

New Conway Parks, Tourism & Recreation director Ashley Smith has come up with a new plan to make eating at Conway Recreation football and baseball games more fun.

Fans at Conway recreation football and baseball games will get a feast of sorts when the season starts back up, and the recreation department will actually make money off of it.

New Parks, Recreation & Tourism director Ashley Smith told the city’s Public Safety, Recreation and Administration committee and later the Conway City Council Tuesday night that the new concessionaire Biz Focus LLC, the same company that provides food for the Aynor and Pee Dee games, will pay Conway $15,648 for the privilege of selling its food. If Conway hosts a playoff game, the city will get 10 percent more.

The department has 978 kids in its program now and Biz Focus has agreed to pay $16 per child.

Smith said the department sought bids from Biz Focus, Groucho’s and Joey Doggz, but Biz Focus was the only bidder.

The company will have all control of the cash saving the recreation department a lot of trouble and turning what once was a money-losing situation into a money winner.

Smith also says the variety of food will be much better including hot dogs, hamburgers, French fries, Italian ice, drinks and other carnival-type treats.

Councilman William Goldfinch jumped right onboard.

“What have we got to lose?” he asked.

The season was scheduled to open this past week, but was hindered by Hurricane Dorian. It is now expected to open this week.

Smith said, in the past, recreation employees went to Sam’s to buy food for the concession stands, and there were no checks and balances on the money.

As for the new concessions, he said, “It will give our ball fields an atmosphere,” and, it will be more convenient for families and other fans who won’t have to leave the park to eat.

Smith had another suggestion for council’s Public Safety, Recreation and Administration committee that didn’t go over quite as well.

He asked for permission to drop the price of pickleball from $5 to $2 per session, putting it in line with Carolina Forest and Myrtle Beach.

He hoped that the lower rate would bring in more people who might have translated into more recreation center members.

Smith said many of the pickleball players are seniors and some of them have wondered why children get to use the center for $2 and they have to pay $5.

Pickleball games are played on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m.-noon. Smith also hopes to expand that play to afternoons, perhaps between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. when the center has fewer patrons.

City Administrator Adam Emrick said there have been some discussions about putting more pickleball courts at Collins Park, but he doesn’t want to tackle that issue until several other projects that are already underway are complete.

He doesn’t think adding courts at Collins Park will be expensive, giving a possible cost of about $200,000.

Councilman Shane Hubbard said he has had veterans ask him if they can get a reduced rate at the recreation center. He said Lowe’s gives them 10 percent off, and a 20 percent discount at the recreation center seemed suitable to the veterans.

But, Goldfinch reminded the group about how, during planning for the recreation center, the idea was for it to be self-sustaining.

“It’s your job to run that facility and making sure it goes in the direction it needs to go,” Goldfinch told Smith.

“Let’s make it clear,” Smith responded, “I’m here to make money for the city.”

Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy stepped in to stall the pickleball discussion.

The council committee then agreed to hold the issue and not present it to the full council at this time.

Smith promised to come back to the group when he’s had more time to study it.

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I'm the editor of the Horry Independent, a weekly newspaper in Conway, South Carolina. I cover city hall and courts, among many other subjects. Know of a good story? Call me at 843-488-7241.

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