Collier County commissioners are moving forward with plans to build a multi-million dollar sports complex, which would cater to multiple sports. The complex would most likely be built in the City Gate area near I-75 and Collier Boulevard - the same area once considered by the Atlanta Braves, before a deal to bring them to Collier for spring training fell through.
While some commissioners expressed concern over the estimated $60-to-$100 million cost, supporters of the complex urged them to approve the building of the facility. They argue that it would make Collier County a year-round sports destination, after a year in which resort tourism for the county dropped.
"The year to date, this hasn't been the best season," said Mary Shea, president of the Sports Council of Collier County. "I don't know that we'll ever see (a year like) 2015 again."
"Sports will feed this town 12 months out of the year, unlike tourism," she added.
During public comment at Tuesday's Board of Commissioners meeting, Janet Marlowe told commissioners that she would like to see Collier share in the money that other Florida towns are raking in with the sports tournaments to which she takes her kids on weekends.
"We're going up to Sarasota, Bradenton, Miami, Orlando," Marlowe said. "And just seeing what all of those places are making, I hope that this can move on to the next phase."
While consultant Rob Hunden thinks a Collier sports complex could host multiple tournaments in a wide variety of sports all year, he said that there is an element of risk.
"In terms of the facilities themselves being profit-makers for individual investors, we've seen that play out negatively in other places," Hunden said.
The cost of building a sports complex would most likely mean raising the county's tourist tax from 4 to 5 percent.
The hefty price tag for such a venture gives Commissioner Penny Taylor some pause.
"I'm very concerned about that," Taylor said. "We cannot overspend, no matter how exciting this is."
Commissioners eventually voted 5-0 to have county staff start negotiating prices with landowners, although have yet to give the final green light to start building facilities. The board will look at the matter again in the next couple of months.