Little more than a week after the Cape Coral City Council sunk negotiations that could have led to construction of an international-class competitive swim and sports complex along the Del Prado Boulevard extension, Lee County has thrown the project a lifeline.
With the county commission's unanimous approval of a "letter of intent" this week, county staff and National Swim Center Corporation officials can commence formal negotiations to build at least the aquatics portion of the project at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers.
Cape Coral's loss may very well be Fort Myers' gain.
The county, Fort Myers, and the not-for-profit group now have 120 days to see if the numbers work, the primary caution flag on the project.
But at least county officials approved the due diligence aspect of making this project a reality for the local economy. That's something the Cape Coral City Council declined to do, voting 5-3 to nix negotiations designed to reach terms and conditions to make the facility a win-win for the organization and taxpayers alike.
We commend our county board for having the foresight to see the project's potential and for concentrating its efforts on ways to make this destination-draw work rather than on ways to dismantle it before the final-offer proposals are put on the table and scrutinized.
Sports tourism is a proven money maker in Lee and neighboring Charlotte County.
It's clean, it's eco-friendly, and it fits the definition of economic development hand-in-catcher's mitt: Sports tourism brings new money into the local economy by drawing visitors with cash to spend.
Lee County and the businesses across the river will benefit in a number of ways should this project be added to the regional sports tourism roster - hotel room nights; direct and indirect economic impact dollars; extra sales tax and bed tax money; and jobs - good things all.
We have confidence the county will make this project work if, in fact, the numbers make sense. We wish them the same success with negotiations we would have wished the Cape had city officials just seen the same potential.
For the record, we are not among those who discounted the concept for the Cape but think it's just dandy and "right" to pursue for Fort Myers. Our position on the swim center has, in fact, been consistent, something we can't say about those with Fort Myers /South County myopia.
Let us reiterate that position for Lee County: Negotiate this one aggressively. If it's doable, make it happen.
It's gratifying to see the county already has taken the proper first step in that direction.
- Breeze editorial