2006-01-02 / Front Page

Proposed new football stadium the top news story of 2005

Spartanburg architects McMillan Smith will begin work this month on final design plans for a $5.5 million, 10,000-seat stadium. Spartanburg architects McMillan Smith will begin work this month on final design plans for a $5.5 million, 10,000-seat stadium. Cherokee County enters 2006 with the promise of a new school building program and hopes for a multibillion dollar Duke power plant.

These are some of the developments that began in 2005 and are among our top 10 stories of the justcompleted year.

Movies - one being filmed here and some that local residents hope will eventually be shown on a multitheater cinema complex - also were frequent topics.

Here are the top 10 stories of 2005.

1. NEW STADIUM

After 70 years at W.K. Brumbach Stadium, Gaffney High School has reserved space for a new home field.

Spartanburg architects McMillan Smith will begin work this month on final design plans for a $5.5 million, 10,000-seat stadium. McMillan Smith is the same architectural firm that designed new stadiums for Wofford College and Dorman High School.

The stadium will be built on a practice field between the district office and Gaffney High School. Construction is expected to begin next fall. The stadium will be ready in time for the 2007 football season.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson called a press conference in Greenville to address the lynching case of 16-year-old Isaiah Clyburn. He was flanked at the podium by the victim's parents, Steve and Brenda Clyburn. The Reverend Jesse Jackson called a press conference in Greenville to address the lynching case of 16-year-old Isaiah Clyburn. He was flanked at the podium by the victim's parents, Steve and Brenda Clyburn. The district has entertained discussions about a new stadium dating back to a building program proposal in 1992. The school board postponed a decision on a new stadium in the fall of 2003 citing the need to complete GHS repairs first.

A Gaffney High construction lawsuit settlement on Nov. 3 cleared the way for school trustees to finally approve the stadium project as part of a $33.3 million bond issue.

The bond issue will fund other school building projects, including ninth grade additions at Blacksburg High and Gaffney High, a Limestone Learning Center, a field house and upgrade to the Blacksburg High football stadium and a 6-classroom addition at Goucher Elementary.

The district plans to issue the bonds this spring.

2. TEENS CHARGED

Charges against six Spartanburg County teenagers in July in connection with the lynching of a 16-yearold received national attention.

Blacksburg won an 
            unprecedented fourth straight Class IA marching band championship on 
            Oct. 29 at Newberry High School. Blacksburg finished ahead of 
            Bamberg-Erhardt, this year's Lower State winner, and Wagener-Salley, 
            after winning the Upper State finals the previous weekend.Blacksburg won an unprecedented fourth straight Class IA marching band championship on Oct. 29 at Newberry High School. Blacksburg finished ahead of Bamberg-Erhardt, this year's Lower State winner, and Wagener-Salley, after winning the Upper State finals the previous weekend.Rev. Jesse Jackson said Isaiah Clyburn was targeted because of his race. He said the case should be prosecuted as a federal hate crime. However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney's Office determined the jurisdiction would remain with the state court. The case is scheduled to be heard in Cherokee County General Sessions Court on Jan. 9.

Luke Grice, Justin Ashley Phillips, Kenneth Eugene Miller Jr., Christopher Scott Cates, all of Inman, Jerry Christopher Toney of Spartanburg and Amy Woody of Campobello are each charged with 2nd-degree lynching and have been released after posting $50,000 bond. They are accused of assaulting Clyburn as he walked near his home on Ellis Ferry Road in Grassy Pond.

3. IT'S SETTLED

The Cherokee County School District signed off on a $10 million Gaffney High construction lawsuit settlement shortly before students went on Christmas break.

The settlement ended a 2003 lawsuit over the Gaffney High project filed against the USF&G Surety bonding company, original Gaffney High contractor Mitchell Construction and the project's designer, the architectural firm of Martin, Boal, Anthony and Johnson. USF&G Surety provided the performance bond for Mitchell Construction.

The lawsuit settlement calls for the money to be used for Cherokee Masonry to repair all masonry defects at Gaffney High. Almost all of the outside brickwork will have to be replaced, a task which is expected to take a year to complete. A section of the gymnasium roof will also be replaced.

Any remaining money from the $10 million settlement will be used to reimburse the district for money it has already spent repairing the school.

Gaffney High is entering its eighth year of construction work. District figures show that the district has spent $4 million from its budget on Gaffney High repairs since the school opened in August of 2000.

4. INDUSTRY NEWS

While some residents might still give directions in Gaffney based on 'the old Lowe's' they'll need to update their descriptions after 2005.

The home improvement store's return was one of several positive economic stories this year. With plans to hire about 130 workers, the retailer brightened unemployment outlooks for 2006 and improved the look of Peachtree Marketplace shopping center by destroying the former Wal-Mart building and adding a new hi-tech facade.

Cherokee County took a big step in landing a new Duke Power nuclear power plant this year. The $4-to-$6 billion potential investment was helped along in December when Cherokee County Council approved a tax incentive package that grants Duke a 4 percent fee-in-lieu and a substantial infrastructure improvement credit.

"We've done all that we can do," Cherokee County Development Board Director Jim Inman said. "We've shown that we definitely want the plant here."

Japanese textile maker Suminoe added to the positive economic news by announcing an $8 million expansion at its Gaffney plant that would result in 55 new jobs.

5. THEATER OR NOT?

Summer blockbusters haven't run this long.

An effort to build a multiplex theater and entertainment center adjacent to Prime Outlets-Gaffney enters the new year in limbo. Representatives of the mall owner and American Family Entertainment Center-Southeast (AFEC) are attempting to settle how the property is transferred.

AFEC announced plans in late June to build a $6.8 million, 60,000square-foot entertainment center. The project would feature eight state-of-the-art stadium-seating movie theaters, a 16-lane bowling alley, children and adult arcades, a food court and a sports bar.

The entertainment center would employ 10-12 full-time workers and as many as 28 part-time employees. When the project was announced in late June, AFECSoutheast President Dave Kowert said he hoped to break ground in August of 2005.

Gaffney Mayor Henry Jolly is acting as a co-broker for one of the alternate entertainment center sites, a 12-acre property on Nancy Creek Road. It is one of the sites AFEC is expected to consider if no agreement is reached on locating the center on mall property.

6. KATRINA EFFECTS

While not exactly ground zero for Hurricane Katrina, Cherokee County residents still felt the effects of the storm both negative and positive.

Like the rest of the country, Gaffney saw gas prices climb above $3.50 a gallon and some days the gasoline availability was sketchy at best.

But authorities stressed that the real crisis could be caused by panicked consumers rushing to fill up their tanks more so than usual.

"The one thing I say to the consumers out there is we need to guard against going out and filling up every 10-gallon jug with gas and diesel fuel. Because from a market standpoint, it exacerbates the problem," said South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.

Even so, county and city agencies followed the lead of many state agencies and began enacting gasoline conservation measures.

"Because of fuel availability, it has become necessary to limit fuel consumption to all users from the fuel island at the county shop," Cherokee County Interim Administrator Ben Clary said in an office memo obtained by The Ledger.

But positive stories abounded as charities like the Cherokee County American Red Cross and Broad River Baptist Association raised money, sent volunteers and collected emergency supplies for Katrina victims along the Gulf Coast.

7. BHS BAND

It was a fantastic fourth for the Blacksburg High marching band.

Blacksburg won an unprecedented fourth straight Class IA marching band championship on Oct. 29 at Newberry High School.

Blacksburg finished ahead of Bamberg-Erhardt, this year's Lower State winner, and Wagener-Salley, after winning the Upper State finals the previous weekend.

Judges awarded Blacksburg best visual and overall effect for its Route 66 music show of songs by The Eagles. The band performed arrangements of the 1970s rock group's songs "Life In the Fast Lane," "Desperado," "Hotel California", and "Get Over It."

Band director Shane Dixon has led the Wildcats to three state championships since taking over for longtime director Virgil Hampton after the school won its first marching band title in 2002.

Blacksburg will move to Class 2A in 2006.

Blacksburg High Principal Jim Touchberry said the band's four state championships are the result of hard work by the band members, school staff and the many parents who work behind the scenes to support the program.

"This is unprecedented. The Blacksburg band has represented our school and community admirably. We are very proud of them," Touchberry said. "I think the band members will look back many years from now with pride on what they have accomplished over the past four years."

8. CITY HALL

After years of wrangling over the issue, Gaffney City Council agreed to construct a new city hall complex which would house the administration, police and community development departments.

City of Gaffney officials could be in their new digs as early as mid-January.

The $4 million city hall project proceeded on schedule for most of the year.

City officials could begin moving into the building during the second or third week of January.

The city has approved two change orders but they haven't caused the project's price tag to escalate, city administrator James Taylor said. That's because the city hall budget approved by Gaffney City Council last January included a $70,000 contingency that brought the cost estimate for the new city hall to $3,906,000, according to Taylor.

"At this point, we don't anticipate any cost overruns," Taylor said. "However, we don't have any crystal ball but we are optimistic that we can bring the project in at or near the budget."

The city paid $2,629 for a change order that, in part, added metal studs and extra framing for the bell tower and deleted two inches of sand from the sub-slab preparation. Taylor said the second change order was for a $73,000 generator but that expense was part of the original cost estimate.

Taylor applauded Sossamon Construction, the project's general contractor, and the architectural firm of Craig, Gaulden and Davis for limiting the number of change orders.

9. IT'S SHOWTIME

It might not be Hollywood, but uptown Gaffney was awash in lighting towers, screens and state-of-the-art movie cameras in June as the crew from Persistent Entertainment invaded and took Birnie Street back in time for the filming of the motion picture "Walker."

Judd Payne, who is producing the film along with director Matt William, said the main reason the venture was in Gaffney was because of Mabry's Diner.

"The film is set in the 1950s and this section of town just has such a wonderful atmosphere about it that is almost unchanged since that time. Mabry's is a wonderful little diner and I just fell in love with it when we were scouting down here earlier this year," Payne said.

Local owners Tammie Phillips and daughter April Mullinax were cast as extras in the film and were involved in many scenes shot inside their renovated restaurant. Mabry's was re-christened The Atomic Diner, complete with a new neon sign advertising air conditioning.

Payne and his company were pleased with all of their South Carolina filming locations, which include Camden and Inman.

"Gaffney is a great town, really all the Carolina towns are," he said.

At least one Gaffney resident took his movie aspirations a step further.

Former Limestone College professor John Sullivan made his Hollywood debut in midOctober with a small role as a war veteran in the movie "Elizabethtown."

Sadly, he wasn't able to see the final version of the film.

Sullivan, a professor of social work and sociology from 1985-1997, passed away in January after a brief illness.

10. MURDER

A 25-year-old Gaffney man was sentenced to life in prison for the stabbing death of Chris Allan Riddle of Blacksburg.

Eric Blackwell pleaded guilty to murder and testified against his codefendant and girlfriend, 21-year-old Jessica Blanton of Gaffney, who was found guilty of accessory after the fact of murder in an October trial. She was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Blackwell's mother, 41-yearold Teresa Humphries, was sentenced to eight years in prison suspended to four years and two years probation for accessory after the fact of a murder. She pleaded guilty in December.

Authorities said 27-year-old Riddle was stabbed 167 times. His body was discovered Nov. 23, 2003, covered in leaves and branches in a wooded area off a dead-end road near Highway 18 and Interstate 85.

Blackwell testified he and Riddle were arguing over money after leaving a Gaffney bar.

There were four murders in Cherokee County in 2005. Police have made arrests in all four cases.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Jokes centering on Hershey's syrup and wanted posters featuring Willy Wonka became especially popular around the Gaffney Police Department after officers contacted the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to help identify a sticky-sweet situation.

With the help of chemical tests by SLED agents, Gaffney police determined what appeared to be blood throughout a Peachtree Inn motel room was actually chocolate syrup.

The room was rented Nov. 5 by a man and woman. When cleaning crews entered the room the next day they discovered what they thought was blood. They cleaned the room and put the sheets in a garbage bag, but never called police.

Police responded to the room four days later and requested SLED assist in the investigation.

The Fire Lake Festival fizzled despite having more than 40 bands appearing on three stages for 55 shows in August.

Acts like Lit, Sugar Ray, Puddle of Mud, Trapt, Better Than Ezra, Shinedown, Jurassic 5 and the Marshall Tucker Band drew crowds of approximately 7,000 from places as far away as Kansas and California to the inaugural event, but those numbers were far less than the anticipated 80,000.

The disappointing attendance estimates were partly to blame for the unpaid bills left by festival organizers. The Caggiano family, owners of Sunny Slope Farms, held an auction to sell festival leftovers remaining on the 370-acre festival site. T-shirts, hats, cases of bottled water, and even the infamous Fire Lake festival centerpiece, a fountain in the middle of a pond on the site, were auctioned.

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