New Columbia athletic facility offers state-of-the-art training and positive outlet for the community
COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — Keeping kids off the street is hard if there are not many activities in their community.
That need for recreation motivated Word of God’s Bishop Eric Davis to undertake a massive project, Recreation Athletics.
“Our churches are the center,” said Columbia mayor Daniel Rickenmann. “They need to be back at the center. It will make a huge difference in our community.”
The sports facility was originally born from a church wanting to have a gym for its kids.
“Well, it came from the need. Necessity is the mother of invention,” said Word of God’s Bishop Eric Davis. “So, we first needed a facility because we have a thousand or so kids in our church. We needed our own gym.”
Recreation Arena serves the whole community. The indoor and outdoor facility can host a variety of sports and recreational activities.
“The kids need something else to do that’s constructive. That’s the bottom line,” Davis said. “The wonderful thing about this facility is that we’re not limited to one sport or thing, it’s an arena.”
Rickenmann expressed his happiness at seeing Recreation Arena opening up at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday.
“Seeing somebody’s dream come true, but that dream is about fixing a problem in our community,” the mayor said. “Being a piece of the puzzle that makes a difference is unbelievable.”
The sports training and rehab facilities are meant to engage marginalized and at-risk urban youth in Columbia. Davis put a lot of money and time into making it as nice as possible.
“This is their arena. This is their Colonial Life Arena. You have urban kids who probably have never set foot in Colonial Life Arena,” Davis said. “This is their arena. This is where their dreams come alive, so we wanted to make it as nice as possible.”
The project did face stumbling blocks as it got its start right before the pandemic.
“Supply chains were affected so it stretched the project out longer than we would have liked to,” Davis said. “We’re really grateful that God blessed us to get it done.”
The facility also partnered with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and will be the new headquarters for the Midlands Gang Task Force.
“It was just the right move. It was a natural fit, because there’s going to be a lot of youth,” Davis said. “We want them to be safe. We want this to be a safe environment so the task force felt that this would be a better location for them to be.”
Additional locations will feature soccer fields, a track, volleyball courts and more for all kinds of athletes in the Midlands.
“We have world class athletes. They deserve a world class facility. That’s what we try to offer,” Davis concluded.