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Future of Bay Oaks overhaul on the line

By Staff | Jul 14, 2020

With the concept of $5.5 million from the Town of Fort Myers Beach to fund the overhaul of the Bay Oaks Recreational Campus, the town’s hired planning consultant appeared in front of the Bay Oaks advisory board on Monday to discuss various plans they have put together for the site.

Among the major points of discussion is whether to demolish and replace the main building, if new ballfields are needed, if an amphitheater should be built and what type of welcoming center is desired at the front of the property to grab the attention of the public. A new pool building and a new facility next to the pool for “passive recreation” such as yoga and card games in order to separate those users from those who play pickleball or basketball has previously been proposed. The council also approved an outdoor fitness court back in December.

After a lot of talk, the town council will ultimately make the final cut on what gets built and what doesn’t.

Advisory board members have maintained the importance of bringing the public’s attention to the Bay Oaks Recreational Campus. The advisory board believes there is a need for the campus to have visibility from Estero Boulevard. “The whole point is to make it known that it’s there,” said Town of Fort Myers Beach Councilmember Dan Allers, who is the town council’s liaison to the advisory board. “It should be some sort of welcoming center somehow.”

The costs were at the center of talks on Monday, with the project’s planning consultant Paul Benvie of DRMP saying there will have to be a narrowing down of the scope of the work, since the totality of the different plans being floated would exceed $5.5 million. Benvie said the town would be using loans to cover the cost. The Town of Fort Myers Beach Council voted last month to contract with the firm for $47,810 on a 30% design as part of three major building initiatives the council is considering.

A new welcome center building would cost about $1 million, Benvie told the board.

The proposal to move the ballfields and build a new artificial turf field would cost about $1.2 million just for the turf one one field and another $800,000 for a second turf option. “That is just for the turf,” Benvie said. Benvie said there wouldn’t be any dirt on the infield as part of the plans. He said the turf is easy to slide on. There are also batting cages being proposed. In addition, the fields would be used for flag football and soccer.

Not everybody was willing to be limited to the $5.5 million with Patrick Vanasse suggesting the town build out the site in phases. Vanasse, who is on the Fort Myers Beach Little League Board of Directors, said two ballfields is important since there is an adult softball league and Little League who use the fields currently.

“If we want a quality facility, quality park, if the budget is going to be more and we know that, I think it’s better to have that discussion up front. We might have to build it in phases rather than putting out a number that might be a little too light,” Vanasse said.

Denise Monahan said a new 12,000 square-foot building on its own will cost about $5 million.

Town of Fort Myers Beach Manager Roger Hernstadt said the funding could be increased.

The Lee County School District as well as Lee County own parts of the property, and both would have to sign off on the plans.

Kathie Ebaugh, executive director of facility planning and development for the Lee County School District, said the district is willing to share its parking as part of the town’s proposed plans, but wants to secure the parking on its own during the school day with a new electronic gate at the lot.

Hernstadt said the town council will be given the plans in August with the intention of going out to bid for proposals that would be received by October.