The City of Fort Myers wants to save City of Palms Park from demolition in the midtown section of the city. The ballpark is currently owned by Lee County.
Tuesday night, Fort Myers City Council voted for the park to be transferred back to the city and keep baseball at the stadium for now.
The deadline for the city to reacquire the park back from the county is in a little over three weeks.
Mayor Kevin Anderson told us the city does not want the county to move forward with plans to demolish it. He says the city would like to hold off for a year and assess its future. He says that could include leaving the park, renovating it or demolishing it and building a new space there.
Anderson says this decision would also allow the baseball and softball teams from FSW to play at least one more season at the park.
“This will allow us the opportunity to let FSW play here … at least one more season,” Anderson said. “And it would give us an opportunity to assess the property and see what would be the highest and best use for this property.”
It’s the bottom of the ninth, and the City of Fort Myers is at the plate.
“At some point if we requested it, they would return this stadium to us, the park to us, whether the stadium was standing or not,” Anderson said.
Anderson says the park was transferred from the city to the county in the 2000s for financial reasons.
“Is it renovating this stadium? Is it using some of the stadium for another purpose? Or is it clearing the land and developing it some other way?” Anderson said.
Attorney Sawyer Smith says his law firm conducted a survey, asking hundreds of local people what they’d like to see happen with the park.
“Our residents want to see City of Palms stay; they want to see repurposed; they want to see that it get returned to citizens who paid for it in the first place,” Smith said.
People we spoke to don’t want to lose what they describe as an icon, the where the Boston Red Sox once played.
“It brings back memories of some of the best games and the times because you were so close up to the players,” Paige Rausch said.
Others are more open-minded.
“Definitely a park. What do you think?” mom Tracey Stender asked her daughter.
“Yes, I want a park,” daughter Hadley Stender replied.
A woman we spoke to recommended expanding Skatium, which sits across the street from the ballpark, and building a larger ice rink, so the area could host statewide or even national hockey tournaments.
“That would be good money for the city … to hold a tournament, invite more kids to play in here,” Alma Roberts said.
We spoke with the athletic director of FSW. He told us the school would love the opportunity to play at the stadium for at least one more season.
We also reached out to the county for a comment on the city’s plans, and they did not wish to share a comment at this time.
“Stand there and look at it. Just look at it, and think about its possibilities. Then, imagine it just being dirt. There are no possibilities once you take it down,” Smith said.