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Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center

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Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center

    Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center

    The Civic Center, located at the intersection of Nash Street and Kelly Drive, was a dream for many years before becoming reality. It was in the 1960s when the Lee County Recreation Foundation was formed with the purpose of building a civic center. Sam Bass was chairman of the Foundation, with other dedicated Sanfordians involved. While a civic center was not to come to fruitition at that time, the group did raise enough money to purchase the land of which O.T. Sloan Park was constructed.

    Some years later, CCCC President Dr. Marvin Joyner remembers a CCCC Trustees' Building and Grounds Committee meeting with Meigs Golden, Hal Siler, and Dennis Wicker when he addressed the needs of the College. There was no place to have graduation. There was no place to assemble the CCCC staff. And there was no place to house the College's Small Business Center.

    The 1960s attempt to build a civic center came to the forefront. "We looked at ... if there was a need, why nothing ever happened," said Dr. Joyner. "The conclusion was there was not a significant amount of money made available to stimulate the idea."

    Dr. Joyner noted it was later decided to make a concerted effort to try to bring a civic center to life. It was determined that it would take better than $3 million to build such a facility.

    In 1987, Rep. Dennis Wicker of Sanford sponsored a bill approved by the N.C. General Assembly to provide $1 million to Lee County for a civic center.

    "During my first years in the North Carolina House, the General Assembly provided grants to local organizations. I remembered how the community leaders of Lee County for years had been discussing the need for a civic center in the community. The challenge was how to fund a civic center facility with state dollars," said Wicker. "Someone suggested Central Carolina Community College be the owner of the Civic Center so state funds could be used to build it. Then CCCC President Dr. Marvin Joyner was extremely helpful in coordinating efforts among the College, the community college system, and the General Assembly to channel state money to the College for construction of the Civic Center."

    There also was a companion bill instituting a motel occupancy tax to provide additional funding for the construction, later to go toward ongoing maintenance of the facility.

    "One other challenge for the construction of the Civic Center was the future maintenance of the building," said Wicker. "The General Assembly passed another proposal, which established a local occupancy (motel/hotel) tax, which provided maintenance funding for the Civic Center. The rationale is that out-of-town guests visiting events at the Civic Center would help pay for its maintenance and upkeep."

    In 1988, the Lee County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution providing $2 million for construction of the Civic Center.

    A ground-breaking ceremony for the "Community Resource Center" was held on Dec. 6, 1989. Speakers at the event included Dr. Marvin Joyner, CCCC President; Gordon Wicker, Chairman of the Lee County Board of Commissioners; Rex McLeod, Mayor of the City of Sanford; and Hal Siler, Executive Director of the Sanford Chamber of Commerce.

    "This Community Resource Center will thrust Sanford and Lee County even further toward the forefront of progressive communities in North Carolina," Lee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Gordon Wicker was quoted as saying in The Sanford Herald.

    Among those attending the event were Calvin Howell, Architect, Hayes-Howell Architects, AIA, and Randy Turlington, Project Manager, New South Construction, Inc.

    "There was a lot of excitement around because of people's anticipation," said Dr. Joyner.

    The new Lee County Civic Center opened on May 6, 1991, for the Small Business Banquet. Two days later, the Small Business Expo was held.

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