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Kayak club seeking ‘other options’

By Staff | Sep 4, 2015

Plans to build an Olympic level training facility near Lake Kennedy are apparently no longer on the table – at least not for the city of Cape Coral.

Melinda Mack, executive director of the Cape Coral and South Florida Canoe and Kayak Club, sent an e-mail to the city, informing it that the club would seek other options and municipalities for its facility, city officials said Wednesday.

Councilmember Jim Burch said he believes the big problem was money, and so talks with the city fell apart.

“We asked some benign questions about how they were going to pay for this,” Burch said. “Since we asked, it all went downhill. It was in the pipeline until we asked about money; how much did we spend to make this work?”

If things change, the city is still open to the proposal, which called for the construction of a $22.5 million complex that was projected to inject more than $8.6 million into the local economy and bring in more than $341,000 in Lee County tax revenue each year.

Councilmember Richard Leon said the city will move forward with different things, but if the club wants to pursue the project again, the city would listen.

“It was a great plan,”?Leon said. “It had a lot of backing. Right now they don’t have the money to afford it. It happens in business. They’re a great partner. They still lease from us and we look forward to the events they bring up.”

In January, city council had voted unanimously to advance the South Florida Kayak & Canoe Club’s proposed athletic training complex project on city-owned property on Lake Kennedy.

Rather than a Public-Private Partnership, as had been proposed by city staff, city council voted to lease the land to the club, which then would have been responsible to design, build, maintain and operate the planned complex.

As presented, the project was to be fully privately funded with the city not required to procure any goods, financing or services.

The project was to include a world class competitive training facility and athletic dormitory offering sprint, paddle sports and performance training with video analysis.

The club already operates under a lease agreement with the city, but the complex would have required much more city property, requiring a new lease agreement.

In June, the South Florida Canoe/Kayak Club was selected by state officials to run this year’s canoe/kayak sprint races for the Florida State Sunshine Games, the state’s longest running state games in the U.S.

The Olympic-style events involved competition in nearly 30 sports throughout the year. The local team won 31 gold medals, 10 silvers and six bronze awards.