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County floats swim center option

By Staff | Mar 6, 2010

City council is expected to make its decision on the proposed Olympic swim center in the coming weeks, but should council decide to pass, Lee County is poised to leap on the opportunity.
Commission chairwoman Tammy Hall said Friday she supports the city’s efforts to pursue the project, but won’t hesitate if it becomes available.
“We’re basically saying if Cape Coral can’t facilitate a contract, we’ll start working to find a contract and location,” Hall said. “We’ve been working with this group for a long time.”
City council is set to discuss the issue on Monday.
The National Swimming Center Corporation, the company behind the project, has apparently given the city a tight deadline by which they have to make their decision to either move forward or take a pass.
Though NSCC spokesman John Machilargy could not be reached for comment concerning more information about that deadline, Councilmember Marty McClain said the deadline is due to the need for NSCC set a schedule for Olympic time trials and other events.
Without the experience of wrangling such a high-profile project, McClain said he understood the hesitation from both the city and its residents.
But, he added, without spending money, the city wasn’t likely to make money, and the direct and indirect revenue streams will likely float to Fort Myers or unincorporated Lee County.
“Across the river they’re looking at how to make this work, and we’re looking at how to say no,” McClain said.
Ideas and rumors have been floated as to where the center would be built in Fort Myers, but according to Tammy Hall the exact location is unknown.
City Palms Park, when eventually vacated by the Boston Red Sox, was mentioned, but Lee County Sports Authority Director Jeff Mielke said even City of Palms needs serious work.
“It’s an option,” he said. “But we would need to be convinced City of Palms is the right venue.”
The NSCC is asking the city for $22 million in improvements for the Academic Village area, the site eyed for the facility. They’re also asking another $5 million towards construction.
NSCC is seeking an additional $10 from the county, should the facility be built in Cape Coral.
City staff is looking at ways to postpone about $4 million of the site improvement price tag to later phases of the project.
If city council should decide to move forward, then another deadline exists: the facility must be up and running and ready to host events by Dec. 31, 2012.
With such tight timeframes all the way around, Marty McClain thinks the council needs to decide now, not later.
“We need to stop wavering and wobbling,” he said. “That seems to be the solution: wait.”
City council meets on Monday, 4:30 pm, at city hall.