Halifax County Dixie Youth Baseball is getting a boost from the town of South Boston heading into its spring season. Town council voted unanimously at its Monday evening meeting to allocate $50,000 from the town’s budget contingency fund for capital improvements to the Day Complex.
Councilman Bill Snead, who chairs the town’s finance committee, made the motion. Vice-mayor Bob Hughes seconded the motion. The action came after the leaders of Dixie, Inc. — David Ashwell and Steven Crutchfield — approached town council at a February meeting about the need for new lighting and the repair of retaining walls at the Day Complex.
Snead told town council he had been in discussion with town manager Tom Raab about what to allocate for next year’s budget to assist Dixie, Inc. with the capital needs at the Day Complex, and he determined council needed to “step up” before the beginning of the spring season to help them address those safety needs at the complex.
He added that there would be a bid process for contractors for the capital improvements to the Day Complex, and the town manager would have to approve the capital improvements before any work began.
Councilman Joe Chandler called the funding allocation a “big step in the right direction,” adding he would like to see a two or three-year plan for additional follow-up monetary contributions to Dixie, Inc. from the town of South Boston so the organization can take care of the “major issues that they face” at the Day Complex.
“Our children are important; the recreation aspect is important. Also, what they do over there (at the Day Complex) with holding tournaments helps the town economically, bring visitors into our community,” Chandler commented. “I just think doing this is the right thing to do.”
Councilman Tommy Elliott echoed Chandler’s remarks.
“This issue has been long overdue. Baseball has been pretty much been neglected for a good number of years now,” Elliott said. “I think this oversight and this monetary gift that we’re proposing will go a long way to having a place that the community can be proud of and a safe place. I’m hoping that we’ll set an example and maybe Halifax and Halifax County can also contribute to this and get this job done sooner rather than later.”
Mayor Ed Owens commented that in the future, he would like to see Dixie, Inc. try to come up with matching funding for the money they receive from the town of South Boston so that they would have some “skin in the game.”
Snead replied that he had spoken with Crutchfield, and for this year, Dixie, Inc. would only be able to contribute about $6,000, and in the next couple of years, coming up with matching funding for the would be difficult for the organization, as well.
Owens replied that he still would like to see a contribution from Dixie, Inc.’s in the future, but it would not have to be in the form of cash money. It could be in the form of a donation of fencing or equipment.
Raab noted after council’s vote to allocate the $50,000 to Dixie, Inc. the town still has $59,969 remaining in the budget’s contingency fund.
Paul Smith, president of the South Boston-Halifax County Museum of Fine Arts and History, and LaTonya Sadler Hamilton, director of Halifax County Tourism, also made funding requests and provided updates at Monday’s town council meeting.
Smith requested $27,500 - the same level that the museum has been funded in the past. He added the museum’s total annual budget is about $75,000.
Smith told council the museum has more than 600 visitors per year, and he expects that number to increase because of the revamped Crossing of the Dan exhibit that recently opened at the museum.
The exhibit was relocated from its former home at The Prizery and was refurbished with new lighting, flooring, paint and display cases.
“We expect at least double the visitation in the next two to three years, so that could have a significant impact on tourism here in our county,” Smith said.
While the museum was closed for most of 2020 because of COVID-19, the museum has reopened, with operating hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and from noon until 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
On Feb. 20, the museum unveiled its new and improved Crossing of the Dan exhibit, in conjunction with a 240th Crossing of the Dan anniversary commemoration.
Smith shared with council that the museum worked with the Halifax County Historical Society to host the Zoom commemoration attended by 230 organizations and individuals for the Crossing of the Dan, which Smith termed a historic event in Halifax County that “impacted the nation as a whole.”
Smith also noted the museum had a 53% increase in average monthly visitation in 2019 compared to 2016.
Following Smith’s presentation, Hamilton shared with council the impact tourism has on Halifax County and South Boston and thanked council for the financial support they have provided to Halifax County Tourism in the past.
“Tourism has a positive impact on our community,” Hamilton asserted. “When people come to our community to visit, they spend money. That goes back into our economy to support our infrastructure.”
In 2019, tourism poured $51.4 million into the local economy, Hamilton said. That same year, 600,000 visitors came to Halifax County, with 6,930 of those visitors coming through the doors of the Visitor Center in South Boston.
The tourism director told council that her office has used the funding it received last year from the town of South Boston to overhaul its website, www.gohalifaxva.com, in May 2020.
Hamilton said the revamped website had seen “exponential growth” since its launch, with a 64% increase in traffic to the site and a notable increase in the amount of time visitors spend on the site, from 50 seconds to more than four minutes.
In the next year, Hamilton told council the tourism office also plans to do targeted marketing to an audience within a 300-mile radius based on industry research that shows people will start traveling again as COVID-19 restrictions continue to be lifted but that most travelers will not venture more than 300 miles away from their home.
Hamilton also shared her plan for incrementally reopening the Visitors Center to guests in the next couple of months with COVID-19 restrictions being lifted. Currently, the Visitors Center provides curbside service only to customers.
Starting March 15, the Visitors Center will be open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. In April, the Visitors Center will be open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and in May, the Visitors Center will be open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.