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Swim center floats to the forefront

By Staff | Jan 9, 2010

During a strategic planning session in December city council pegged economic development as the single most important issue facing the city.
One project that could fit the profile — the so-called USA Swim Center — comes up for discussion on Monday when council reconvenes from its hiatus for the first workshop of the year.
City staff is planning to ask council for $25,000 to hire a private firm to review the feasibility study on the proposed facility.
Interim Assistant Manager Carl Schwing told Council for Progress members at their monthly meeting on Friday that the swim center, along with the proposed ice rink and hotel at Sun Splash, the VA Clinic and the Village Square project in the CRA are a number of “high visibility” projects on staff’s radar.
District 1 Councilmember Marty McClain, who has long stood behind the swim center project as a viable economic generator, said the purpose of the review is generate an outside opinion on the true potential impact the swim center could have.
“We would be doing ourselves a terrible injustice taking the project this far without getting further input,” he said. “We need to make sure we’re covering all our bases.”
Schwing said for the city to strive economically, it’s important for the public and private sectors to come together.
He wants to revamp the way the city attracts outside businesses, by changing the “culture” of city hall, saying that if someone walks away unhappy, then neither he nor his staff have done their jobs.
Schwing also plans on meeting with Lee County’s Economic Development office some time soon.
“We need unity in this community now more than ever,” he said. “We need to realize government can’t do it all.”
Though Monday’s workshop isn’t a voting meeting, council’s discussion on the $25,000 could be another step toward building the swim center.
“We need to take a look at the whole project,” McClain said. “The second phase of this facility is the academic village, plus a tennis facility. And with the close proximity to the new VA (clinic) … the impact of the two combined facilities would be a realistic building boom for the city.”
District 4 Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz, council’s point person on economic development issues, could not be reached for comment.
City Council meets at 4:30 in council chambers.