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Upgrades to Centennial Park expected to become major moneymaker for Fort Myers

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Posted at 9:07 PM, May 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-08 12:13:44-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — More money is coming into Fort Myers, as the recently approved upgrades to Centennial Park are expected to bring more locals and tourists to the area.

Mayor Kevin Anderson, calls the upgrade to Centennial Park long overdue, saying, "That park I believe is about 40 years old, so, it was ready for an upgrade. So, it’s going to be like having a brand new park."

During a five-hour meeting, City Council approved a $350,000 renovation to the park’s amphitheater Monday night. The project will include new playground equipment for children with disabilities, storm drainage and utility systems. Mayor Anderson believes the park will turn into a moneymaker too.

"By the end of the year, I believe we’ll have the bandshell, where there can be community events held in the park. There can be concerts. All kinds of things can occur down there now," Anderson said.

But not everyone was on board. Council members Fred Burson and Liston Bochette said the language in the agenda for the overall $3.5 million project was confusing.

"I haven’t seen how it’s going to be spent," sad Burson.

Randy Henderson, who was Mayor when this conversation started years ago, explained the Council had already discussed these items before and were simply ratifying the city’s $350,000 contribution to the amphitheater. He said it takes money to make money, pointing to other cities that have invested in their waterfront properties.

"We’re very fortunate to have learned from other cities a great deal about how to do that."

The area along the Hillsborough River downtown Tampa got an $11 million makeover in 2015, with a 2.5-mile riverwalk, a water taxi, and a gourmet food court. Henderson says Fort Myers recently approved investments could pay off just like they did in Tampa.

"The economic impact from the hotel and the modernization of the Caloosa Sound Convention Center will generate enormous revenue, discretionary revenue, somewhere in the neighborhood of $600,000 and $1,000,000 a year."

That’s factoring in revenue generating from hotel guests paying the county's bed tax and ticketed events at the park, like concerts.

Mayor Anderson pointed out last year the city’s assessed property value grew by 6.9 percent, the greatest increase throughout Lee County. He says developing areas like Centennial Park will continue to push property values even higher.

And like Tampa, he’s also looking into bring water a taxi to the Fort Myers river front.