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County sends draft lease to National Swimming Center Corporation

By Staff | Aug 3, 2011

Lee County is seeking to finalize in less than two months an agreement that would convert the City of Palms Park into a multi-purpose aquatic facility.

On Monday, the county’s Economic Development Office sent a draft lease and letter to the National Swimming Center Corporation stating that the county expects all of the required documents to be executed no later than Sept. 30.

In June, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners voted to proceed with a proposal from the National Swimming Center Corporation to turn the Fort Myers stadium into an Olympic-caliber, outdoor swim center complex.

Initially, the proposal had involved the county putting up a $40 million bond. After county staff recommended against moving forward with negotiations, the National Swimming Center removed the county’s financial contribution.

Under the proposal, the complex will be completed in phases.

Phase I is estimated to cost approximately $18.2 million.

According to the prepared draft lease, there will be no investment of any public funding for the conversion of the stadium into an aquatic facility, nor any public funding for the daily operations and maintenance of the center.

Within 15 days of the agreement becoming effective, the National Swimming Center is required to open an interest-bearing escrow account, then secure the completion of phase I by placing no less than $20 million into the account.

The draft lease also states that the National Swimming Center will cover all costs to convert the site back to a Major League Baseball facility if it fails.

Former Lee County Commissioner John Albion, who has been a consultant for the swim group on the project, said the group is reviewing the documents.

“They have been diligently going through the county’s draft,” he said Friday.

There are some things that the group would like some clarification on prior to moving forward, like the escrow account, but overall it looks positive.

“We’re confident that we’ll get there,” Albion said. “It was a very good step to get this document.”

The National Swimming Center would enter into 20-year lease and pay the county $100,000 per year with the option to extend the lease by 10 years.

According to the documents, the aquatic facility will consist of one diving pool, four swimming pools and other amenities. The facility must be made available to the community for swimming activities, classes and events.

Phase I improvements include an outdoor aquatic arena and entertainment area; a champions club or lounge; a professional swimming school and aquatic therapy, wellness and rehabilitation facility; an International Swimming Hall of Fame; a health and wellness center; and a sports performance clinic.

The county is seeking input on the draft documents by Aug. 16.

Albion said the swim group would like to finalize the plans by Sept. 1.

“We’re just as motivated as they are,” he said. “I would be surprised if county does not have an updated version in their hands no later than next week.”

Last year, the Cape Coral City Council rejected a proposal from the National Swimming Center to build a facility that had an indoor swimming pool, a hotel and convention center. The projected cost was $84.9 million, but the project never got past a viability study.

City Council felt that it was not getting the answers it needed to proceed.

City of Palms Park is at 2201 Edison Ave. in Fort Myers.