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County to explore swim center project dropped by Cape

By Staff | Apr 27, 2010

The Lee County Commission has given staffers the green light to find out
what it would take for the county to get involved in the swim center project
that Cape Coral officials took a pass on.
During a meeting Tuesday, commissioners came to a consensus and directed
county staffers to work with the National Swim Center Corporation to create
a cost analysis for the project.
“We have given them that latitude to listen to what the swim center people
are proposing,” Commissioner Frank Mann said.
In the early-morning hours Tuesday, the Cape Coral City Council voted down the project 5-3 following hours of discussion at Monday night’s meeting. Councilmembers Marty McClain, Kevin McGrail and Derrick L. Donnell voted in favor of moving forward with the swim center. Mayor John Sullivan and Councilmembers Pete Brandt, Chris Chulakes-Leetz, Erick Kuehn and Bill Deile voted against the proposal.
Mann said the potential cost of the project, which made the majority of the
City Council reluctant to support the swim center, will also play a large
part in the commission’s discussions.
“Since we have recently embraced a huge commitment for the Boston Red Sox, we do not have any more money available, at all, to go toward another
athletic program, especially one that’s so expensive as this,” he said.
According to Mann, when the county was seeking a site for the new Red Sox
stadium, one competitor suggested putting the ballpark on one portion of the land and a swim complex on the other portion.
“But that never took flight and it is no longer before us,” he said.
Mann added that the plans for the new stadium only consist of a ballpark.
“There is no room for a project like this,” he said of the swim center.
County staffers have also been directed look into the existing City of Palms
Park as a location that could be converted into a swim complex, Mann added.
Commissioner Tammy Hall explained that an informal letter of interest for
the City of Palms Park had been released, and the swim center coordinators
were the only respondent interested. The deadline to respond was April 12.
“The swim center would like the county to continue to work with them on
finding a location,” she said. “We’re going to be internally discussing
what’s happened with City of Palms.”
The county is seeking to replace the Olympic pool located at Florida Gulf
Coast University, Hall said. It has $4.5 million to invest in the
“At this point, really what we need to do is determine what are all the
viable options in the county and look at those,” she said.
“We’d love to have this facility sited in Lee County,” Hall added.
According to Commissioner Brian Bigelow, the $4.5 million was granted to FGCU to build the pool on the basis that it would be accessible to the public.
Though the $4.5 million were the only possible county funds on the table that he had heard of Tuesday, Bigelow said he has reservations about the project.
“I think timing is everything right now, and I think that this is a bad time to pursue this,” he said.
Bigelow said there would be great potential in drawing people to Lee County with the swim center, like having professional baseball teams, but he is more inclined to wait on the project.
“While I can see some benefit to the county in pursuing this, I’m thinking it’s probably not the best time to be considering more of this sports initiative using reserve dollars, or putting this government to work at another sports venue,” Bigelow said.
According to proponents of the project, the swim center would be a major
plus in terms of economic development.
John Mcilhargy of the National Swim Center Corporation did not return a telephone message seeking comment.