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Naples Daily News (Florida)
The slew of upgrades to Collier County's park system is set to continue Tuesday.
Collier County commissioners will be asked to approve a $10 million deal to build swimming pools at Eagle Lakes Community Park in East Naples.
The same day, they'll be asked to:
Spend $2 million to convert two grass soccer fields in North Naples to artificial turf.
Approve a potential financing plan for a proposed sports complex that could cost $60 million to $80 million.
Commissioners, meanwhile, still need to decide how they're going to pay for a new $60 million regional park near Golden Gate Estates expected to open in early 2020.
Add it up and Collier County could spend more than $150 million on new parks and park features in the next couple of years - enough to run the entire county government for about five months.
The spurt is due, in part, to a bottleneck of projects that were held up during the recession but are now ready to go forward.
Commissioners also have made a shift in strategy, to invest more in sports tourism. To draw more soccer, football and lacrosse tournaments here and get those hundreds or thousands of parents and athletes to stay in local hotels, the county needs more fields, supporters say.
The five county commissioners already have voted to consider raising the county's bed tax from 4 percent to 5 percent to pay for a new sports complex.
A potential financing plan that will be presented Tuesday indicates the tax hike would raise about $5.2 million a year, enough to pay down the annual debt to cover the cost of up to an $80 million loan.
'We had to catch up'
Parks, in general, have been the slowest service to recover from the recession, said Commissioner Donna Fiala.
"We had a lot of infrastructure we had to catch up on, and had to focus on the most important things like water, wastewater and roads," Fiala said.
"But now we're getting back to the things people enjoy out of life," she said. "It took longer than I would have hoped."
The swimming pools at Eagle Lakes have been planned for more than five years but delayed by funding issues.
If approved, construction will take about a year to complete.
The work will include adding a lap pool that could be used for competitions and practices of nearby high school and middle school teams, as well as exercise or therapy classes and open swims.
A separate pool will be open for families and swim lessons, as well as wading pool and splash area for toddlers and waterslides.
"This is going to be a great family gathering place," Fiala said. "It's going to make so many families and swim teams happy."
Park near Estates
The planned regional park near Golden Gate Estates also has been planned for years. It was first designed in 2006 but tabled after impact fees dried up when housing construction came to a standstill.
The 150-acre park will be built in two phases at a cost of about $30 million per phase. The first phase is being designed and tentatively is expected to open in early 2020.
By the time construction on the first phase begins in 2019, the county expects to be about $12.6 million short of the total tab. Commissioners then will have to decide whether they want to take out a short-term loan to pay for the construction or build the park piecemeal as money becomes available each year.
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