The answer to that question is still very much up in the air. While the council has earmarked about $6 million for the Bay Oaks rebuild, estimates have come in as high as $20 million. It will all come down to exactly how big and fancy the council wants to get with a final design.
On Monday, DRMP representative Paul Benvie presented 30% plans for the redevelopment project. The design firm and the council discussed ball fields, pickleball courts, new buildings, a fitness trail and the gym, what the entrance should look like, landscaping and an outdoor stage.
The Bay Oaks Recreational Campus is located behind the library and includes property also owned by Lee County and the school district. Interlocal agreements are being worked out with both the county and the school district.
One plan discussed on Monday had one multi use ball field, while another plan included two fields. The cost fluctuates depending on the kind of turf the town chooses for the fields with artificial turn being more expensive than grass. The cost for grass is estimated at $500,000. The cost for turf is about $1 million and that only has a 10 year life span.
Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros questioned the need for 2 ball fields. “The demographic of our island is fewer children. I don’t see the need for 2 fields. We’re going to have more and more seniors, that’s who’s moving here.”
The council also discussed entry to the park. One plan included a welcome center at an estimated cost of $700,000 to $1.5 million, with one way traffic entry and an alternate plan for no building with two way traffic at a cost of $100K to $300K. Mayor Murphy said he didn’t really see the need for a welcome building at this time stating the money could be spent on other things. Councilman Dan Allers and Councilman Jim Atterholt agreed, stating it was important to draw more attention to the entrance with better signage and landscaping. Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros stated she was “anti building” and wanted to get a traffic lane off Estero Boulevard open as soon as possible. Councilman Bill Veach had concerns about having a two way drive into the park. With all in agreement the welcome center appears to be off the board for now.
The council also discussed the existing fitness building. DRMP presented the cost for three options. Option one was to keep the building there now and maintain it. A second option was to repurpose the building, creating an “airnasium.” And, the final option was to tear the building down and build a completely new “airnasium,” which is an open air pavilion with multi use courts. Mayor Murphy was in favor of demolishing the building which is 35 years old badly in need of repairs, including a new roof.
DRMP was asked about the cost of the project. The response of $15-20 million appeared to surprise many in attendance as the budget numbers currently hover around $5.5 million. Councilman Veach commented that “this seems to be getting out of hand.”
Vice Mayor Hosafros was clearly unhappy with the estimated cost. “I feel we have creep going on here. We have already told the community $5.5 million. We need to bring it in with what we said we would spend on it.”
Town Manager Roger Hernstadt explained that when the design was further along they would bid out the project with certain criteria and see what best fits the needs and the budget.
Mayor Murphy added there are “countless opportunities” for other funding sources to help fund this project.