WARRENVILLE — A groundbreaking ceremony was held in the rain Thursday for a $1.15 million Aiken County government project to build a finish line tower at Langley Pond Park.
“This will allow Langley Pond to be a world-class venue for championship rowing,” said County Council Chairman Gary Bunker, who stayed dry under an umbrella while speaking.
He added that a parking area and a walkway also would be constructed.
J.E. Stewart Builders Inc. of Aiken is the contractor for the project.
The finish line tower will be a three-story wood-frame building supported by pilings. It will have a metal roof.
The structure will be a place where racing officials will time and coordinate rowing competitions, said Mark van der Linden, director of the county’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
The completion date is scheduled for late this year.
There hasn’t been a rowing competition held at Langley Pond Park since the U.S. Rowing Southeast Regional Championship Regatta in June 2014.
Leaks were found in Langley Pond’s dam in the fall 2014.
The dam is in the process of being strengthened, retrofitted and repaired.
Schnabel Engineering created the design for that project and is overseeing the work. The contractor is Crowder Construction Co., which offered a $13.5 million bid County Council approved in a resolution.
Aiken County Engineering Department Director Teresa Crain said the total cost would be around $15 million, which includes the removal of three sandbars from Langley Pond.
In addition, stumps are being removed.
Capital Project Sales Tax III, the Undiscovered S.C. grant program and the Accommodations Tax are providing funds for the dam project.
“We’re targeting January 2020 for completion date if we have good weather,” said Aiken County Administrator Clay Killian. “It’s about 35 days behind now because of wet weather. We’ve had more than our share of that lately. They (construction workers) hope to make up some of those lost days when the days get longer and hopefully drier. They’ll probably work on the weekends some.”
The groundbreaking ceremony for the dam project was held in March 2018.
Jim Buckalew, parks manager for the county’s Department of Parks Tourism and Recreation, and van der Linden are hopeful that rowing races will be able to return to Langley Pond next year.
“We have the rowing course designed to be eight lanes, which will make it an international level course,” Buckalew said.
But the work on the dam will have to be completed and Langley Pond’s water level will have to be raised after being lowered for the dam project.
“We also plan on having triathlons and water skiing events, and we want to get the pond back open for swimming,” van der Linden said.
Prior to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Langley Pond was a practice site for the U.S. Rowing Team.