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Fort Myers council shuts down call to redo City of Palms Park soccer process

3-3 vote means selection process for a soccer group to start over doesn't pass
City of Palms Stadium
Posted at 8:38 PM, Feb 20, 2024

FORT MYERS, Fla. — City of Palms Park hasn't had a main tenant for more than a dozen years since the Boston Red Sox last held spring training there.

On Tuesday, the project was at risk of another delay after City Manger Marty Lawing presented a recommendation to the council to start over with the selection process for the new tenant.

However, at Tuesday's council meeting the motion failed after a 3-3 split vote.

Mayor Kevin Anderson, Ward 4 Councilman Liston Bochette and Ward 6 Councilwoman Darla Bonk all voted in favor of the recommendation. Ward 3 Councilwoman Terolyn Brown wasn't present

"We only have one chance to do it right, the scoring process didn't go as it should have," Mayor Kevin Anderson said before the meeting. "I think it's only fair to the people who are proposing projects that they be given the opportunity to present once again and have the scores done again."

Anderson was referring to the two council members giving presenters "zeros", which caused United Soccer League, the group that came in second for the contract, to question the process.

Back in January, Pitch Prime was selected to take over the contract.

"Some council members just don't follow directions," said Councilwoman Teresa Watkins Brown, Ward 1. "And when they don't follow directions, this is what happens but we shouldn't fault the developers."

Councilwoman Watkins Brown told Brownlee that she was against the recommendation. She also pointed to the damage to the city's reputation for future projects well beyond just soccer.

"This would be a huge let down for our city if we decide to overturn this RFP because it will tell other developers if you come before us and the process isn't done right or someone wants to change their vote or whatever, then things can be changed. And us as a city can't be wishy washy," Councilwoman Watkins Brown said.

Brownlee asked Mayor Anderson if he was concerned if this process would hurt future developers and sports teams coming to Fort Myers.

"I hope not, this city is on the cusp of some really good things," Mayor Anderson said. "I think investors and developers recognized that. We just need to tighten up on our process."

The city manager's recommendation came after a dispute committee voted to move forward with Pitch Prime.

In 2023 before the selection process, some people in the community said they didn't care who took over the contract, just as long as the city did something with it.