From Controversy to Harmony: Ambitious $11.4 Million Tennis Center and Trail Expansion Draws Praise


Just over a year ago, a proposed $5.7 million expansion and rebranding of the Palm Coast Tennis Center as a regional racquet club was a thunder of controversy and controversy. split votes on Palm Coast City Council. Today, a revised and vastly expanded $11.35 million plan to redo the grounds with a luxurious community center, solar-powered pickle balls, a dog park and a bucolic-chic trail has only attracted almost all praise and no detectable resistance from four council members.

“That’s why so many people want to be here, because we provide such quality amenities to the community,” said Council Member John Fanelli.

The Lehigh Trailhead project is re-landing the east side of Belle Terre Parkway, north of the Tennis Center (under the high voltage power lines, near Fire Station 25). It would have a community garden, including 18 garden plots and a compost bin, a 1.3 acre dog park, restrooms, two shade pavilions and an exercise track. The Lehigh Trail borders its northern edge. There would be 72 parking spaces.

The trailhead project is worth $2.52 million, with a Florida Department of Transportation grant taking on $1.6 million, park impact fees picking up $651,000, and the community redevelopment agency from Route 100 or the downtown area, which has its own tax revenue, picking up $289,000.

It’s only a beginning. The $11.35 million recreational facilities project is the main course. There will be a community building, including administrative offices, washrooms and changing rooms, a kitchen and dining room, two multi-purpose rooms, a lobby and terrace areas, as well as six covered pickle ball courts possibly lit by a solar panel. , and six lit up in the most fossilized way.

The recreation facility will attract users from existing residents and 1,000 new homes are expected to be built in the town center alone, said Carl Cote, the town’s engineering manager.

The Park Impact Fee would cover $7.1 million of the project, State Road 100 CRA would recoup $3.5 million. The city is pending a $739,000 tourism development grant — the grant that recently made headlines when revelations emerged that Flagler Beach had not applied for it. The TDC makes its recommendation on this grant next week, and the County Commission must ratify the decision in August.

Previously, the city would draw at least in part from the general fund, which is fed by property taxes. “Due to increased development and the influx of impact fees from the park, we were able to fund this without using any of the general fund dollars,” Côté said, assuming the TDC grant is full. . “We are the only applicants for the TDC grant, aren’t we?” said Mayor David Alfin. “That would give us 99% assurance that we would get it, wouldn’t it?” In fact, it is always in the hands of the TDC, and then in the hands of the commission, to decide whether to grant the full amount or a lesser amount.

The project is spread over three fiscal years. Contracts would be awarded in July, with the bulk of construction taking place in 2022, ending in December 2023. The council will need to approve a series of contracts with different contractors and companies covering all costs. There doesn’t appear to be any opposition, even from Ed Danko, the board member who voiced opposition to the 2021 expansion.

“And this is a scaled down version of what we were originally talking about,” Danko asked.

“Not quite,” said Alfin. “Not only is it downsized, but it’s now a flexible space, so now it’s a community center, which gives the public the opportunity to – it relieves pressure on our community center, which is now overcrowded.”

“Scaled down” is exaggerated: “shift” is more precise. There is no talk, at least for now, of 42 tennis and pickle ball courts combined, perhaps because the city realizes that tennis is no longer the booming sport it once was. . We are no longer talking about a huge central stadium field. No longer is it all called the Reilly Opelka Racquet Center, named after the often Palm Coast-based tennis pro who has made a name for himself as America’s top player but still struggles to break through. the sports elite. (His parents live in Grand Haven.) The city’s TDC application was ambiguous about the name. The city now refers to the future 63-acre complex as the Southern Recreation Facility

Danko also posed a question that the city dodged in 2021: “We will have to hire additional employees to staff this facility, right? He asked. “Do we have some type of business plan or template or anything?”

“I know by offering some of the program spaces here, they’re probably going to have a few more employees, it won’t be until fiscal year 2023,” Côté said.

However, the proposed cost has not been reduced: on the contrary. When the tennis center expansion was proposed last year, it was to begin with a $5.7 million plan focused on new pickle ball and tennis courts, including the stadium field, restrooms , lobby and reception area, pro shop, locker rooms. The current plan is more immediately ambitious and costly.

“All I want to know is, will we be able to break even?” Danko asked. The answer was not an outright yes, but that the city would pursue what remains a nebulous goal: city parks do not make money, nor do they break even in the classic sense of the word, when considered as equipment. But they unquestionably end up being supported by the tax base of the city, and mainly by its land tax base: this is how the employees are paid. So claiming that expansion will not dip into the general fund is only true in terms of fixed capital costs and not annual recurring operating costs. The confusion of numbers persisted, however.

The inclusion of a dog park in the new plan may have been a nod to the councilman, who takes his dog to the Holland Park dog park several times a week. Danko was concerned about having one dog park serving all dogs, big and small. But the size and uses of the area by Florida Power and Light, pushing some fences away, make dividing the park problematic, Cote said. The discussion now is whether to open a small dog park further south on Belle Terre or to have different hours for dogs of different sizes in the main park.

“Two things that are fantastic are moving away from the use of general fund dollars and also encouraging exploration of solar possibilities,” said Board Member Nick Klufas.

“The awnings for the additional pickleball courts not only make the pickleball courts usable during the heat, but also for sure the summer programming that can take place in these facilities,” said Klufas, the member most sensitive to global warming. advice. “It’s really important to keep the kids out of the sun and just in general when it’s like it’s outside now at noon without any type of shade. It’s really brutal there. And that makes the space usable almost 24 hours a day.”

The council had two options for a solar panel: one option was a partial panel, costing $275,000, the other covering the entire pickle ball roof, for $528,000, saving the city over $200,000 $ over 25 years, or $19,300 per year. The cells begin to lose their efficiency after 25 years. “It’s a cost-benefit option to do this option,” Cote said. But for now, federal grants are not available. Tuesday’s meeting did not reveal which solar option the board will choose. The facility will also have a charging station for electric cars.

Only four of the five council members heard the leisure center presentation because Eddie Branquinho walked out earlier in the meeting.



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