Inferno Arena On Fast Track

By CLIF LeBLANC
The State

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Work on the Columbia Inferno’s new hockey arena should start in August, thanks to a decision by Lexington County Council to speed the purchase of the site.

Council agreed Tuesday to pay $2 million for up to 100 acres off Old Dunbar Road that include the key 26 acres the hockey club wants for its 6,500-seat arena, council chairman Todd Cullum said.

The money will come from the county’s economic development fund, he said.

The hockey club needed to start construction in August to meet its goal of opening the arena in October 2007, Inferno general manager Rick Woodard said Wednesday.

Club owners could not get a permit to remove trees and underbrush from a 320-foot circle until the sale was closed.

The construction timetable calls for completion of the facility’s initial footprint by mid-August — with the building’s 115-foot high, inflatable dome in place by the end of that month.

Major construction of the ice floor, offices and seating is to begin in January.

If the complex lives up to its billing as a $30 million sports and entertainment center, it eventually will include a separate practice rink and an $8 million to $10 million hotel.

Woodard said recruiting has not begun in earnest for entertainment shows or a hotel developer.

Cullum said the county has optioned up to 100 acres of the site because it hopes the arena will draw retailers, restaurants and clubs similar to The Vista in downtown Columbia.

“We’re going to try to create that same kind of venue,” Cullum said.