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Swim proposal carries unexpected price tag

By Staff | Feb 19, 2010

Now that the feasibility study for the proposed swimming facility has been turned in, city officials have to decide if they will pursue the project and where they will come up with the $27 million the National Swimming Center Corporation says it needs to make it happen.
According to the study, the “Concourse at Cape Coral” would consist of five Olympic caliber swimming pools, a hotel and convention center, seating for up to 10,000 spectators, a swimming hall of fame, sports bar and restaurant, a tennis facility, retail center and satellite campuses for universities, all of which would pump more than $83 million into the local economy.
The first phase of the proposed project –the aquatic, tennis, and retail portions — would come in at $97 million, while the project’s total cost sits just below $200 million.
The National Swimming Center Corporation – the company behind the project — is asking Cape Coral to pay just over $22 million for site improvements and another $ 5 million to help fund construction.
“I’m not happy with that figure. That’s a good chunk of change, and I don’t know where we would get that money to begin with,” said Mayor John Sullivan. “We just don’t have it.”
The study — which cost $250,000, $25,000 of which was paid for by the city — also says the project would create 1,230 new jobs, as well as provide 64,625 room nights annually.
Lee County benefits from a “bed tax,” on short-term rentals which is pumped back into tourist themed projects like beach renourishment and the forthcoming Red Sox stadium.
The National Swim Center Corporation also is asking Lee County to spend $10 million to help build the project.
Aside from the money, the NSCC has also instituted a tight timeline, saying the aquatic center must be up and running no later than December 31, 2012.
That puts a serious push on the permitting process, and the city, which must commit financially and with the permits sooner than later, especially with a deadline that’s less than two years away.
District 1 Council member Marty McClain, a champion of the project, said with all the moving parts of the study, it would be crucial set goals to move forward.
He said the city needs to spend time with the county’s economic development office, as well as move forward with a professional analysis of the study.
Council previously discussed spending $25,000 on an outside firm to analyze the study.
“I would move forward with having the study done,” McClain said. “We could have an organization that reads those studies and is able to put them in laymen’s terms.”
City council was not set to discuss the feasibility study during its Monday workshop.