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"Very discouraging": Fort Myers council upset with City of Palms Park offer

Voted against developers' offer to revitalize stadium, surrounding area
Posted at 9:56 PM, Mar 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-18 21:56:58-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Disappointed. That was the consensus from Fort Myers City Council when they heard what was said to be the final offer from the company potentially redeveloping City of Palms Park.

On Monday night, in a 4-2 vote, council voted to not move forward with the offer from Pitch Prime - the company they're in negotiations with.

Instead, they want the city manager to go back to the negotiating table.

Many city council managers said they want Pitch Prime to commit about $50-$70 million to the redevelopment. Some also want them to buy the surrounding land and not put Fort Myers in debt. With the current proposal, that would be more than $15 million.

City councilwoman Teresa Watkins Brown said they just got out of debt from the stadium.

A Pitch Prime spokesperson said they are guaranteeing something that will achieve the council's vision. Many council members have expressed a desire to revitalize Midtown.

Others have said they would like a professional soccer team, apartments, pickleball courts and more. That is what Pitch Prime says they will offer.

However, even with the sentiments shared on Monday night about the proposal, many council members pushed back.

"I'm disappointed, because I don't think that was the presentation we heard some time ago," said Councilman Fred Burson.

Burson was very adamant about the money aspect of the stadium. He told Pitch Prime's spokesperson he wants a statement from their bank that they have the means to borrow $50-$70 million for the stadium.

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He also wants Pitch Prime to cover the stadium's debt service.

"It doesn't sound like what we were trying to negotiate for and that was to not to have to be in debt," Watkins Brown said.

Other council members, like Liston Bochette, said he believes Council is going into this "very blind."

"Very discouraging," he said. "...numbers that don't add up."

Bochette went on to say "I think we could regret this some day," as he referred to the current offer Council voted against.

Let's say by the next meeting they get this done and signed.

Here's when we could see some actual movement with the stadium:

  • If they signed the contract in April, the design and survey would be done in June.
  • It would take four months to get a permit.
  • Both fields at the stadium would go in and be done by January 2025
  • It would have to be certified by FIFA, which will likely get done in March 2025, with other improvements still going on.

At this point, it's a waiting game. The city manager needs to go back to Pitch Prime and negotiate what council members are calling a "better deal."
Once another deal comes forward, the city manager will bring it up to Council and they will, again, vote on it.