LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Shut it down. Promote it and improve its neighborhood. Those are two different visions for the short-term future of City of Palms Park. Lee County budget planners want it closed; some in the city want to promote it.
"Moth-balling it may be the way to go. The Nationals baseball team wants about $25-to-$30 million in upgrades to the place and the county and the city do not have that kind of money at hand," said Lee Commissioner Frank Mann. Lee County said it could save $450,000 a year by closing down the park.
"We need to aggressively market the park to the world. Market it as a music venue or for spring training baseball or for something. We need to find a long-term use for the facility," said Fort Myers City Councilman Mike Flanders. "That is an outdoor stadium, we can't just let it sit, it must have some kind of maintenance. Otherwise it will cost more to fix it up later on."
Flanders is sending the Nationals a plan to put another practice field next to the stadium, to streetscape the area leading south of downtown to the stadium, and to put in a broad pedestrian walkway and shuttles to and from downtown.
The Boston Red Sox left the park a couple of years ago and moved to a new stadium in Lee County.
Since then, it has been used by amateur teams for baseball. But those fees to rent the place doe not come close to paying the maintenance costs.
The Nationals are negotiating for a new stadium in the Kissimmee area. If those talks fail, the team has informed Flanders that it may once again return to Lee County to look at the City of Palms situation.