Gateway Sun

It’s the one and only place in Gateway where children and families can come together as a community, but now the GSCDD will be exploring selling the Sherman Soccer Complex according to internal memos and emails obtained by the Gateway Sun.

“We need to decide to keep the field or off load it.”

“We should work on the future of the Soccer Complex as a whole with November as a time frame.”

“Keep, sell or donate the complex, including rights, limitations or restrictions as to selling or donating.”

Keep… sell… or donate… the soccer fields.

Normally looking at every possibility is the right thing to do. So is there anything wrong with the GSCDD staff considering all available options?

Or is the Sherman Soccer Complex the one community asset that should be deemed untouchable to the district staff and the politicians who direct them?

Despite repeated assurances over the past year, such as Supervisor Pam Gill telling the Sun we “shouldn’t worry” about the soccer fields, or Chairman William Guy nixing the idea of permanently shutting off the field lighting by saying “not even the London School of Business could make that business case” … the future of the Sherman Soccer Complex is constantly raised by those involved with GSCDD.

But when you ask Gateway’s elected officials about it they run for political cover or deflect the idea.

So if there are no plans for the district to divest itself of the Sherman Soccer Complex, then the Supervisors can put this whole thing to bed at the next GSCDD meeting by demanding the staff quit wasting time on things that will never happen.

But one thing that should alarm you: All five Supervisors are on record and on video saying that they want, for the first time in GSCDD history, to have the Gateway Soccer Association reveal its financial records to the Board of Supervisors. The Board has stated that they intend to use this information to evaluate how much to charge the GSA to use the fields.

Why is that alarming? And what is the connection?

The GSCDD Board, and specifically Supervisor Rod Senior, have been pestering the GSA for over a year and have been told 15 different ways that their financial disclosure demands are unprecedented and ridiculous. And not happening.

Now follow the dominos.

The GSCDD has known for a long time that the GSA won’t give up their financials. Knowing that, the Supervisors made a very public ultimatum to the GSA requiring them to turn over their financial secrets if they want to keep using the fields. Since the GSCDD already knows what the answer will be, because they’ve been told “no” over and over and over … the GSCDD knows that the GSA will leave Gateway after its spring season. Since the GSA was the by far the highest paying user of the fields, the fields will lose even more money than they did before. And with the usage of the Sherman Soccer Complex – along with its financial situation – both at an all-time low, it would make justifying getting rid of the soccer fields easier to do.

The GSCDD is shoving out their top paying tenant. At the same time, April White, the interim GSCDD Operations Manager is pushing the dialogue to decide whether “to keep the field or off load it.”

How does that happen, anyway? She’s been on the job for about 5 minutes. She comes in to a new community and immediately starts talking about getting rid of the town’s centerpiece? Who does that? Is that something you would do?

One must consider the possibility she’s been steered in that direction.

From what we can tell looking at property records, the GSCDD bought one section of the land (STRAP: 08-45-26-00-00001.2050) for the Sherman Soccer Complex in 1997 for $800,000. Then they bought the other section (STRAP: 08-45-26-00-00001.2060) in 2003 for $273,600.

Assuming I’m reading the Lee County Property Appraiser website correctly, Gateway residents have paid over $1 million for the real estate alone.

Knowing that, giving away the property through a donation would be surprising.

Selling the property makes more sense for the GSCDD than donating it. And I’m sure WCI would be thrilled to buy the land in order to build a few hundred homes in the new community of Sherman Preserve at Gateway.

The last option to be discussed is keeping the soccer fields.

I think the GSCDD would agree that it costs the residents between $200,000 to $250,000 per year to maintain the facility. Since Chairman William Guy is fond of breaking things down to cost per person per month, you’re looking at about $1.50 per month per Gateway resident.

In exchange for that sum, you have a community amenity that hosts Christmas events, festivals, movies in the park, and a place where roughly 1,000 of Gateway’s children and their families all get together and socialize on a regular basis. Not to mention an amenity that raises property values.

Is that something that should be put up for sale?

Circling back to the memos, contained within them was a request from Mark Allison of the Gateway Soccer Association to be informed by December 15, 2016 if the youth league will need to find a new place to play.

According to the internal emails, the GSCDD plans to let him know by August… And then decide the “future of the Soccer Complex as a whole by November”.

Fortunately for Gateway residents, they can decide the future of the GSCDD itself in November when 3 of the 5 Supervisor Seats are up for election.

About Jeff Kuntz

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Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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