Naples chamber CEO questions proposed sports complex site

NAPLES, Fla. The future of one of Collier County’s most valuable pieces of land is up for debate.

The head of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce is encouraging Collier County commissioners to reconsider their plans for a site known as City Gate near Interstate 75 and Collier Boulevard. The county commission is set to discuss the idea of building an amateur sports park on the land, but chamber CEO Michael Dalby isn’t sure that’s the best use for it.

The property is currently zoned for light industrial use, and it’s ready to go if a company wants to move in, Dalby said.

“For us, light industrial means jobs that are high-wage, high-value, high-skill,” he said.

Among the most prominent local examples of light industrial use is medical manufacturer Arthrex, which employs nearly 4,000 Southwest Floridians.

The next-closest parcels of land that would be as accommodating for a light industrial company are miles away near Immokalee, making it all the more important to get the most of out of City Gate, Dalby said.

“It’s to make sure we don’t trade off tourism jobs for higher-paying industrial jobs,” he said.

The sports park could instead be built on county-owned land not far from the City Gate parcel, Dalby suggested. Other locations could emerge as strong possibilities as well, he said.

The county began considering the amateur sports park idea for City Gate after it rejected a proposal to build a spring training complex for the Atlanta Braves on the site last year. The county is seeking a way to attract tourism during months when its beaches aren’t as much of a draw.

Dalby would like to see the county work toward a durable economy.

“We want to have a diverse economy with other types of jobs, other types of businesses that give us that diverse, sustainable economy that can weather through whatever storms happen,” he said.

Commissioners are scheduled to discuss the sports complex June 13.

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