The Daily Gamecock

Alumni center on track for 2014 debut

Building funded by private donations, to cost $30 million Read More


USC's alumni center may not have found a contractor to break ground on the $30 million facility, but the My Carolina Alumni Association is confident in the speed and direction the center is moving, said Jack Claypoole, its executive director.

"At a major university like ours, one of the greatest strengths is the power of our alumni," Claypoole said. "We don't have a home base that's school-central. We want to place the new center in the heart of Columbia as a home place for all Carolinians."

USC is the only school in the Southeastern Conference that does not have an active alumni center, and if other SEC alumni organizations are any indication, the center should reap benefits.

"It's going to have a great pay back in the future," Claypoole said. "I've spoken to other alumni associations across the SEC, and they all have told me their centers pay off extremely well.

"It's a business investment that we will see a return on. We're extremely excited about it."

The site, located on Lincoln and Senate streets, where Damon's Grill now sits, was purchased in June for $1.1 million from several sellers including the city of Columbia and the Columbia Convention Center, as well as a private seller.

The Columbia Convention Center bought its way into a partnership with the alumni center by agreeing to complete the underground tunnel below Lincoln Street that will connect the alumni center to the Convention Center for $1.7 million.

In return, the Convention Center will be able to use the alumni center's facilities — comprising of 60,000 square feet with a 500-person-capacity ballroom and 125-seat auditorium — when USC activities aren't taking place there.

"The center will never sit idle," Claypoole said. "In fact, we're anticipating a backlog of booking, and we are hiring our meeting and planning staff a year in advance because of all of the expected interest."

In addition to serving the needs of conferences and business meetings, the center will also cater to people interested in other activities and events, like weddings, too, by planting two botanical gardens.

While the $30 million that will pay for the center hasn't been raised yet, Claypoole said the project is on track for a 2014 opening. It will be funded entirely through private donations and use no state or tuition money, he said.

"It's by alumni for alumni," Claypoole said. "That's kind of become our motto."

The Vista was chosen as the prime location for the center because, Claypoole said, it embodies the heart and soul of Columbia, and it acts as a gateway to the university.

"The Vista is great because of all the nightlife, restaurants, hotels and attractions that will help bring alumni back and keep them engaged," Claypoole said. "It's definitely worth the investment, and we're tremendously excited to see it come to life."