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Swimming complex eyed for Cape

By Staff | Apr 25, 2009

A multi-million dollar swimming complex could be headed for Cape Coral after a plan to have it included as part of the new Red Sox stadium fell through.
The National Swimming Center Corporation, with the support of USA Swimming, hopes to build the facility, along with hotel and convention center accommodations.
“We had originally focused on making it part of the Red Sox decision . . . but it just didn’t work out,” Jeff Mielke, director of the Lee County Sports Authority, said Friday.
The land eyed for the project is a 183-acre parcel northwest of Kismet Parkway and Del Prado Boulevard.
John McIlhargy, director of project development for USA Swimming, said he has been looking to get the project started in Lee County for four years.
“Lee County has established itself as a tourist destination. From a swimming point of view, it has a very aggressive and well-organized swimming community there,” McIlhargy said.
Cape Coral Councilmember Dolores Bertolini, the city’s liaison with the Tourist Development Council, contacted USA Swimming officials after the Red Sox idea fell through. She said the complex will bring jobs in the short term and long term, as well as much-needed notoriety for the Cape.
“It would put Cape Coral on the map because there isn’t any other venue like this in southwest Florida,” Bertolini said.
About 100 construction jobs would be created by the vast project, Bertolini said, and bed tax and commercial property tax revenues generated by the complex would decrease the city’s reliance on residential property taxes.
The project is still in the embryonic planning stages, and USA Swimming officials are set to meet with city staffers in the coming weeks to hammer out details of the complex.
McIlhargy said he hopes the initial part of the project is completed no later than 2013, and that he is willing to work with Cape Coral — which was more amenable to the project than other areas of the county — to move the complex beyond the planning stages.
“(Cape Coral) had a better understanding of what a cooperative arrangement was, coming in and saying, ‘How do we partner in this?'” McIlhargy said.
He also is speaking with United States Tennis Association officials to see if they would like to be part of the project.
Bertolini was very optimistic about the prospect of the complex, but cautioned it is still in the early stage of development.
“We’re in the infancy,” she said.

— Staff writer Drew Winchester contributed to this article