Fort Myers’ City of Palms Park, former spring home of the Boston Red Sox, may have been temporarily been granted a reprieve after the City Council declared support for keeping the facility open as a baseball facility.
City and county officials have been struggling since the move of the Red Sox to JetBlue Park to find a use for the ballpark, past the home of the Florida SouthWestern State College baseball team. Various plans, including a renovation as a natatorium and upgrades for use as a Washington Nationals spring-training home, never panned out. Ownership of the ballpark was assigned to Lee County, which solicited bids for demolition in anticipation of the facility being redeveloped for residential. But this summer local residents stepped forward with a call to keep the ballpark open and find a way to better monetize it.
The demolition bid has not been accepted, giving the city time to reconsider its commitment to demolition and instead position the ballpark as a gateway to the city’s Midtown area. From the Fort Myers News-Press:
Councilperson Fred Burson has been a supporter of the city taking over the stadium and using it as a key element in planned improvements to the city ‘s Midtown area between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard and Edison Avenue.
“That park is beautiful when you come by the corner of Broadway and Edison. The way it sits back off the corner, all the palm trees out front, we could use it like a grand foyer to a much larger building,” Burson said….
Fort Myers City Manager Marty Lawing told council members he met with [County Manager Roger] Desjarlais last week on a variety of topics and said Desjarlais seemed to believe that county commissioners might consider deferring demolition to give the city more time to work out a new use for the oft-idle ballpark.
Besides use by the college, there is an obvious use in an industry already served by Fort Myers: baseball. Terry Park, the longtime home of spring training in the city, is heavily used for college and high-school tournaments in spring and by traveling teams in summer. The two-field complex features parking and abuts other city facilities to the north. Amateur sports are a bug business in Florida, and no matter how many new facilities open, it seems like there’s always demand for more.
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