Team Sumter is sliding into the future.
A brief ceremony was held Tuesday afternoon as members of City Council, County Council and Sumter’s Legislative Delegation officially unveiled a new playground at Patriot Park.
As part of the photo opportunity, the elected officials opted to see firsthand how well the new playground equipment is designed.
Conclusion: You’re never too old to have fun and the good-natured camaraderie on display is one of the reasons Sumter is moving forward in many areas.
Sen. Thomas McElveen noted he’s been to the park before with his kids as he lauded City and County governments for working together.
“I think it makes it easier on us to have a Mayor and a County Council Chairman that get along, and collaborate and communicate,” he said, as he gave a shout-out to City Manager Deron McCormick and County Administrator Gary Mixon.
“I think when you guys have the approach that you have, in that collaborative spirit, it makes it easy to get PARD grants to be able to participate and contribute at the state level.”
McElveen was referring to state money from the S.C. Parks and Recreation Development Fund that helped pay for the playground, along with funds from the City of Sumter and Sumter County Government.
The new playground improves the quality of life and “I think a lot of our kids will be able to enjoy it for a long time,” he said, noting that Patriot Park also contributes to enhancing tourism for the area with the many softball and baseball tournaments hosted there.
“I’ll just say – keep up the good work, let us know how we can be of assistance and we’ll continue to be supportive,” he added.
Rep. David Weeks noted that “we all work together” to improve Sumter and it shows “what team spirit is all about.”
County Councilman Charles Edens, an early proponent of Patriot Park, said he was at the park last week with some friends from Shaw Air Force Base and the pilots mentioned that they’d been stationed at many places and “nowhere has what Sumter has,” he said, “with amenities like this.”
Those comments stuck with him, he said, and meant a lot about what Sumter has to offer.
County Council Chairman Jim McCain said until Sumter becomes a large metropolis, “we are too small, too rural and too poor to not work together.”
Between both local governments and the Legislative Delegation, “we got a homerun team working here and this is the result of it,” he said. Both the City and County had to act fast on the project in order to tie in the state funds, he noted, and there was no hesitation to do so.
City Councilman Colin Davis called the addition “just fantastic.”
“I stand and look at it and think about parks I played on here when I was a kid and I don’t remember anything like this,” he said. “We can’t say thank you enough to the (Legislative) Delegation and the County and Team Sumter for all of the hard work that went into this. I’m thrilled to death that we have this asset to offer families and children for years to come.”
County Councilwoman Vivian Fleming-McGhaney said there’s pride for Patriot Park and she would love to see it grow in the future.
“So I support it, I’m proud of it,” she said, as she was serving as Chair of County Council when the first Penny for Progress was able to fund the creation of Patriot Park.
Sumter County Administrator Gary Mixon touched on his background leading the County’s Recreation & Parks Department and how his “farewell” to that post was to work on getting Patriot Park started.
It’s a unique park, he said, as it’s a County park located in City limits, with plenty of support from both local governments.
“Both recognize the impact it has not only on our community but from a regional concept. This is a very special park and really elevated the bar in our community,” he said. “We’re trying to do things first class no matter what we do and this is another prime example.”
City Manager Deron McCormick said it’s been a pleasure to be part of the collaborative process.
“I thank everyone and can’t wait to see what will happen next,” he said.
Sumter County Recreation & Parks Director Phil Parnell said he appreciates everyone’s support and recalled when Patriot Park hosted the first Dixie Youth World Series Softball tournament here in 2009, the players and coaches were impressed.
“It was like – Wow,” he said. “It’s just a blessing to be here in Sumter.”