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County issues ‘letter of interest’ for swimming facility at City of Palms

By Staff | May 13, 2010

Lee County will continue negotiations with the National Swim Center Corporation via a “letter of interest,” taking 120 days to determine the feasibility of building Olympic caliber swimming pools at City of Palms Park.
Commissioners decided unanimously to support the letter Tuesday.
But, Commissioner Frank Mann said he did so with extreme “skepticism,” adding that NSCC officials have yet to prove their financial viability.
“I saw nothing with us entertaining the proposal. But at this point, I have seen nothing that would convince me to support it,” he said. “I do not see the money.”
The NSCC is asking the county to essentially convey City of Palms park to it with a 99-year lease, and an additional $4.5 million the county had previously committed when the project was eyed for the Cape.
Conveying City of Palms Park, valued at $30 million, according to Mann, is a “huge hurdle” the commissioner said he’s having particular difficulty with.
“I’m not at all comfortable right now,” Mann said. “They have to do a lot of work to convince me this is good.”
Commissioner Ray Judah said the shot at turning City of Palms into a world class competitive swimming facility is tremendous opportunity for Lee County.
With the stadium due to become vacant once the Red Sox complete their final spring training season before moving to their new $100 million dollar venue next year, Judah said the potential swimming facility could fill that need and provide another boost to the county’s sport tourism.
He said the county is moving forward with negotiations but has not yet committed.
He added that if negotiations go beyond 120 days, a deal will likely not be struck, but a deal could also be in place before the deadline hits.
“We’re going to take 120 days, look to establish an opportunity to develop a partnership, involving a business plan that would verify their financial position and ensure they indeed fulfill their commitments,” Judah said. “We could arrive at an understanding and develop a biz agreement (before the deadline).”
County Commission Chairwoman Tammy Hall and Lee County Sports Authority Director Jeff Mielke did not return calls seeking comment.