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$30M aquatic facility proposed for Academic Village

By Staff | May 13, 2009

Cape Coral is one step closer to becoming the home of a premier aquatic facility that would host Olympic time trials and bring millions of dollars to the city and Lee County.
The National Swimming Center Corporation, a nonprofit organization, delivered its proposal for the aquatic center to city leaders Tuesday.
The 100-acre facility, dubbed “Concourse at Cape Coral,” is being eyed for construction at the Academic Village in the north Cape, at the corner of Kismet Parkway and Del Prado Boulevard.
The project would consist of three major components: an aquatic center, a tennis center, and a hotel and conference center with a possible educational usage.
The aquatic center is slated to have two 50-meter pools, a 50-by-25-yard training pool, a 25-by-25-yard training pool and 6,000 permanent spectator seats.
The hotel and conference portion of the proposal is 300 rooms, conference rooms, and shopping and dining opportunities.
“This can be a great venture and tremendous economic boost for the city,” said Councilmember Dolores Bertolini. “Think of all the additional branding it will bring to the county.”
Bertolini, whose grandson is a walk-on for the Penn State swim team, admitted Tuesday that she had not had the chance to look the proposal over in full. But, she said, the financial figures for the project need some “massaging” from city council.
The National Swimming Center Corporation is asking the city for $5 million to aid in the project’s development costs, $50,000 for a feasibility study and land either donated or leased for 99 years at $1 a year.
The project comes at a total cost of $30 million.
The National Swimming Center Corporation is also asking Lee County for $10 million.
A study conducted by the organization and the Lee County Sports Authority predicts the aquatic center will have almost $36 million of direct or indirect economic impact, and an additional 65,704 of hotel room nights.
Mayor Jim Burch said Tuesday that it would be hard at this point to determine how much the city would reap from the millions of dollars, but the overall concept of swimming and tennis is viable in Southwest Florida.
“Certainly, Cape Coral would like to be known for many things, and that would be one of them,” he said.
With the city facing tough budgetary times, Burch added that it is difficult to determine the funding mechanism without bringing the issue before city council and staff. Still, with the economic possibilities that would come with the facility, he said it is hard to pass up.
“That’s the intangible I can’t answer,” Burch said of the budget situation. “We have to look at the proposal and come down to what the parties are willing to do … at the end of the day, when you have opportunities like this, you have to spend money to make money.”