Gateway board rejects idea of giving the Sherman Complex to Lee County

Posted on May 03, 2019, 8:33 am
7 mins

At the April 18 meeting of the GSCDD’s Board of Supervisors, the idea of transferring ownership of the Sherman Soccer Complex to Lee County was raised by Gateway Greens resident Rod Senior.

Senior said he was concerned about the approximately $250,000 annual costs to operate and maintain the fields, unspecified capital costs for the lighting, and that Pelican Preserve residents weren’t required to help pay for the fields.

Transferring ownership of the fields is a concept that a Lee County Parks and Recreation staff member who lives in Gateway Greens had called me about several months ago asking what I thought. I mentioned it to a member of the Board of Supervisors at the time, but I didn’t sense a great deal of enthusiasm and basically just dropped it.

But look … On the surface it’s an idea that does have some positives. Specifically, while the Gateway Sun has researched and published Lee County’s field rental rates more than once, it was stated at the April 18 GSCDD meeting that some youth leagues are provided field space for free. (Can honestly say I didn’t know that, but if it’s true I certainly wish I knew that when the whole thing was front page news and on TV.)

Anyway, since the idea was brought up again two weeks ago, I approached one of the Gateway youth league presidents to float the idea by them – deliberately presenting them with the financial benefit.

I spoke to them in person, face to face. Not by email or phone. So I was able to get their entire vibe on what they thought about Lee County owning Gateway’s fields.

His answer? Nope. No way. Thanks, but no thanks.

He’d rather his organization pay the GSCDD’s high field rental rates than have Lee County take over the complex to save money.

So why would that be? Well … and the folks at Lee County know I’m a fan of theirs, but … but according to someone with a strong understanding of the over-all situation, the county wouldn’t care for the Sherman Complex anywhere near as well as the Gateway District does.

And that’s despite the fact that the GSCDD staff (not the Supervisors) hate having to take care of the soccer fields. The staff also hate the dog park, they hate the pool and they hate the Fun Park. And even with the staff’s complete disdain for the amenities, the GSCDD folks still do a much better job than Lee Parks and Rec ever would caring for the Sherman complex according to our source.

All that said, at the April 18 meeting it was decided that Gateway staff would go ahead and meet with Lee County staff to see if there was interest in Gateway’s soccer field being transferred into Lee County’s ownership.

I didn’t think the idea was going anywhere, so I didn’t write about it and I didn’t follow up.

That was until earlier this week when a Gateway resident texted me a document which was published after the meeting with Lee County that stated Gateway staff formally recommended the transfer to the county. That document was also inserted in to the agenda for the May 2 district meeting, which meant the Board of Supervisors would be discussing it.

Well, at least one Supervisor wanted to discuss it.

Supervisor Ed Tinkle made a motion at the May 2 meeting for the district to further explore the concept of giving the fields to Lee County, but according to multiple sources none of the other four board members seconded the motion, causing it to die without official discussion.

Perhaps not lost on the board is that when you give up control of something to the county, the county can then make unpopular choices that the Supervisors cannot stop or change – such as roundabouts over traffic lights.

Another informal attempt was made at the May 2 meeting to compel the youth leagues to disclose their finances to the public, but according to a source, Supervisor Doug Banks challenged that effort on two fronts. The first was a reminder from Banks about Resolution 2016-07 which states (yes, in all caps):

BE IT RESOLVED THAT THIS BOARD DETERMINES THAT SOCCER WILL STAY AT THE SHERMAN SOCCER COMPLEX, AND THAT NO FINANCIAL REPORTS ARE NECESSARY OF THE SPONSOR AND THAT NO FURTHER DEMANDS OR CONVERSATION ARE NECESSARY TO IMPLEMENT THIS RESOLUTION; DULY PASSED AND ADOPTED THIS 18TH DAY OF March, 2016.

The second knock-down from Banks was to ask what opportunities would present themselves if the finances were turned over? What direct action would the GSCDD be able to take that would solve a problem or improve anything if they had the league’s financial information?

No answer was given other than the records would just be nice to have.

While transferring the fields to Lee County does have some positive aspects to it, according to our source the playing fields would “turn to shit within 3 years” if the county operated the Sherman Complex.

Not sure I’d agree with that but my source knows more about it than I do.

Looking at it from all angles, and especially since at least one of the Gateway leagues themselves strongly prefers the GSCDD maintain ownership, perhaps that is the best solution after-all.

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

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