After attending several Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) events with his own sons, Bishop Davis realized the expansiveness of the AAU traveling sports circuit and the dearth of local sports facilities in his home city of Columbia, South Carolina. Traveling all over the United States with other families and congregants, Church leaders realized that their goal of constructing a sport facility could fill a unique niche in the amateur sport market. The business leaders realized that Recreational (REC) leagues and the AAU circuit are vastly different entities. The REC leagues are local, approximately 10 weeks in duration, and local teams must find sportsfacilitiesfor their teams to practice. AAU teams must travel, regionally and sometimes nationally. During their research, Davis and the WOG Warrior leaders realized that their youth were always going away. No teams ever came to Columbia because the city did not have an adequate facility, uniquely located, to accommodate the AAU tournaments.
ReCreation Athletics was birthed with the mission to facilitate the growth and development of amateur athletes from all age groups and backgrounds into successful, high-level professional competitors based on their Power, Agility, Character, Endurance, and Speed (PACES). ReCreation Athletics achieves this through its safe, age-appropriate, affordable, and professional training and recreation facilities and programs that afford clients with advantages that are ordinarily only available to elite athletes.
Rescuing and ReCreating Sonnie’s
With the new Re-Creation Arena nearly three-quarters completed, Davis discovered that Sonnie’s – the most popular recreational facility in Columbia, SC – was destined to be decommissioned. The Northeast Columbia community, where Sonnie’s is located, was slated to lose a community staple, the only recreational facility accessible to urban youth living in that blighted neighborhood. And when Sonnie’s finally closed its doors, youth from the community broke into the shuttered sports facility, not to damage or desecrate the building – these youth simply wanted to play basketball!
Bishop Davis declared to his leadership team, “WE NEED TO BUY IT! The facility needs to be open! It served a gap in the community, particularly during the recent COVID pandemic. When all the community and public parks were closed, Sonnie’s was the only thing that was open to the youth in this community. It was the only place that athletes could TRAIN, PRACTICE, and PLAY!”
The Southeast section of Columbia (from the I-77 off-ramp on Garners Ferry Road to Sumter, SC) has traditionally been overlooked, mainly because of the lack of infrastructure in the area. But nevertheless, that unique rural/urban/suburban Lower Richland community (including Eastover, Hopkins, and Gadsden) has as many, if not more, students seeking recreational training, practice, and play possibilities. The potential in the Lower Richland portion of the county is tremendous; however, when Davis looked at the recreational facilities and resources for that community, it did not take long to realize that there were not nearly enough recreational facilities to absorb the need. The logistical solution was to expand the ReCreation Athletics vision at the mouth of the Lower Richland community.
GARNERS FERRY TOO?
The Southeast campus of WORD OF GOD Church and Ministries International (WOGCMI) is perfectly situated at the entrance of the Lower Richland community, and anyone traveling on Garners Ferry Road, in either direction, must pass the WOG Campus to go home or to get to Sumter, SC – the next largest city. The Southeast WOG location could conveniently serves the sports needs of both Lower Richland and Sumter County.
Preparing Amateur Athletes for Professional Sports
Word of God Church and Ministries International (WOGCMI) – located in Columbia, SC – has a large congregation with youth that come from Urban communities throughout that city, yet the Church found itself handicapped when it came to recreational sports-oriented activities because it did not own its own sport facility. Church leaders sent their youth to other churches and county recreation centers because these were the only facilities available to inner-city youth. Not surprisingly, the Word of God (WOG) athletic teams started winning league championships in those other facilities. Consequently, the WOG Warriors Basketball Team required more practice and training but finding available practice time in other facilities became increasingly more difficult. It simply did not make sense for such a large church not to have an adequate sports facility. So, Bishop Eric Davis decided that WOGCMI needed its own sports center to host games. The Warriors needed a HOME FACILITY; these champions needed an opportunity, at last, to be the HOME TEAM!
Davis saw an opportunity to “…kill two birds with one stone”, so he commissioned to build a sport facility large enough to support the urban REC leagues in his community AND to host “first class” regional and national AAU tournaments. The Word of GoD Warriors would no longer find themselves ALWAYS going away. Now, they could claim home court advantage. But God’s vision, manifested through Bishop Davis, began to expand – from a sport facility with one-to-two courts, to a “PLEX” with indoor football and soccer field capabilities on three (3) world-class basketball courts, two outside courts, a baseball batting cage, a world-class soccer field and track and field and golf amenities. Davis did not stop with football; he wanted to attract amateur athletes in a variety of sport genres.
The community had grown accustomed to using this facility…coming to this location…WOG HAD TO RESCUE and RECREATE Sonnie’s.
Davis knew that If Sonnie’s disappeared, the youth in NE Columbia would literally have no place to go. From his visionary perspective, Davis sought to save Sonnies, then to expand the facility. After securing the property, Davis’ immediate plan was to RE-CREATE it into a “first-class” training and competition facility. Within 24-months, another 80,000 square-foot PLEX, will complement the former Sonnie’s footprint, adding 1) an additional eight (8) basketball courts to the two currently in use, and 2) an indoor football, soccer, and/or baseball fields. This ReCreation SportsPlex, with its 10-court capacity – will be larger than any other sports facility in the state of SC!
Prior to relocating to its current sanctuary, Word of God Church & Ministries occupied the coveted Columbia East Shopping Center on Garners Ferry Road. In fact, the Church still houses the largest Hispanic congregation in the city, a transitional housing facility for men, and a commercial truck driving school at its Garners Ferry location. So, as Davis and this team sought to address the lack of recreational facilities in the city, the Church’s Garners Ferry location was the next logistical location for expansion because the Southeast part of the city had the same problem as the community served by Sonnie’s – a dearth of recreational resources serving youth in the community.
In fact, the WOG membership – which is broken into quadrants (North, West, South, and East) throughout Columbia, SC – has over 1200 current members who live in the Lower Richland community which, by itself, would normally comprise a large Church. WOG membership in Lower
Richland is second only to Bible Way Church of Atlas Road in that community. So, the Church membership is a strong foundation for the expansion of the ReCreation Athletics concept.
The greatest benefit of the WOG Garners Ferry location, in tandem with its proximity to the University of South Carolina (USC), is the adjacent bank of hotels that cluster just off this first freeway exit for tourists traveling north on interstates I-95 / I-26 / 1-77. The Garners Ferry Road exit, off 1-77, is the southeastern gateway to the entire City of Columbia. If visitors plan to stay at hotels in Columbia, they have limited options: this SE section (nearest hotels), the Two Notch Road cluster, or if you travel in the other direction on I-26, the Harbison community. These are the options. So, if tourists are passing through Columbia, coming from Florida, Savannah, GA, or any location south of South Carolina, the Garners Ferry hub is the first introduction to South Carolina hotels. This is a HUGE advantage for the WOG Garners Ferry location! And, to Re-Create a property that accommodates sports, tourism, and new commercial development activity, off the first major exit in Columbia, was a “no brainer” for the WOG leadership team. WOG Garners Ferry will become a host location for tourism, for Fort Jackson, for the University of South Carolina, and for anyone traveling through Columbia, South Carolina, including TRAVELING SPORT TEAMS.
The ReCreation Outlets SE on Garners Ferry Road is G-O-L-D-E-N!