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Fort Myers council members have ideas for saving City of Palms Park

Fort Myers officials have differing ideas in mind for what’s next for an old ballpark, but the city has already asked the county to demolish it.

Before the wrecking ball swings at the City of Palms Park near downtown, a couple of councilmen want to at least float some new ideas.

One believes the city should capitalize on the field already in place because amateur baseball is big business.

The other thinks a combination of education and sports is the way to go.

Councilman Fred Burson wants Fort Myers to stick to sports at the one-time spring training home of the Boston Red Sox. He’s not a fan of tearing the fields down only to build new ones somewhere else.

Simply put: downtown needs money.

“The hotel industry, the food industry, downtown Fort Myers, we need something in that area so that these businesses down here will survive,” he said.

Amateur sports brings in the money. In 2019, Lee County brought in $118 million. Councilman Liston Bochette likes the sound of that, but he wants to go one step further and see the city create a multi-use complex.

“Whether it’s gymnastics, or a conference, a student center, everything at the top from dog shows to tractor pulls. We’ve got everything out there to look at, we just have to be sure we don’t lock ourselves into a single use facility, and we can grow as the years pass and adapt it to the needs of the community.”

He particularly likes education, which is always a priority for families. Bochette suggests a high turnover program, like a certificate program instead of a four-year college.

“A center like this could be built with that in mind, for a faster turnover student body. We could partner with our fine university and colleges in the area or we could even attract another college from outside our area to relocate here,” he said.

Right now, the county operates City of Palms Park and will pay to demolish it in Fall 2021, per the agreement approved by the Fort Myers City Council and the Lee Board of County Commissioners in September.

We don’t know what will happen if the city decides it wants to keep the ballpark or what it might cost to revitalize it or build a multi-use venue.

The city is working with planners to come up with some numbers.

Reporter:Morgan Rynor
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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