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Naples Daily News (Florida)
To lengthen sports seasons and get more daily use out of its fields, Collier County may go artificial.
Parks and tourism officials are considering a $1.8 million proposal to take out the grass on two soccer fields at North Collier Regional Park and replace it with artificial turf.
The turf could save the county a bit - several thousand dollars a year - in watering and maintenance costs on the two fields. But the real benefit would be in their expanded use, said Barry Williams, parks director.
"The issue with natural grass is you have to rest those fields to let the grass regrow for months at a time or they become sandlots," Williams said. "With artificial turf you can play on them every day of the week."
The move to rubber and plastic would be part of the county's wave of efforts to attract more youth and amateur sports tournaments to bring in tourists during the relatively slow spring and summer months.
With much of the county's sports fields at capacity, commissioners are building a $60 million park in Golden Gate Estates that will bring up to eight multi-use fields by early 2020.
Commissioners will also consider raising its 4 percent bed tax to pay for a $60 million to $100 million sports park that would be designed to host tournaments throughout the year with at least eight multi-use fields along with a championship venue that could seat up to 3,000 people.
Artificial turf could be installed in the two fields at North Collier over the summer, said Jack Wert, tourism director.
"This would let us add capacity right away," Wert said. "We have restrictions and preserves in North Collier, so we can't add more fields there even though we would like to. If we're able to increase the frequency of use and playing time at these fields, that's room nights and revenue to the community."
The North Collier park hosted 55 tournament events last year. Wert estimated the switch to artificial turf on just the two fields would allow the county to bump their use up 25percent.
His office is studying how much in terms of expanded tournaments, direct spending and hotel nights the county stands to gain from the expanded use of artificial turf at the site.
Several members of the county's tourism development council are skeptical that the county would come out ahead after investing almost $2million in the fields.
The nine-member council makes recommendations to county commissioners on how to spend money raised from the bed tax.
That $2 million could be better spent on marketing and advertising, said Mac Chaudhry, council member.
"We need to promote the destination," Chaudhry said.
Wert and Williams will present the council with their findings on an expected return on investment before bringing the proposal to county commissioners for approval March 28.
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