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Just two weeks after Estero Village Council approved a $485,045 contract with Naples-based RWA Engineering to design and permit the Estero Entertainment District, the village narrowed down its recreational proposals Wednesday to Missouri-based Chicken N Pickle and Texas-based High 5 Entertainment.  

“We’re here today to get approval of a term sheet that would carry us through the summer, allowing us to come up with final legal documents for the public private partnership and to begin the design of the private spaces, as well as the public infrastructure,” said Village Manager Steve Sarkozy. 

Approval authorized Sarkozy to proceed with negotiating a final public private partnership agreement, related common area maintenance and lease agreements with each company based on the terms provided. 

The Estero Entertainment District is a 20-acre village-owned property on Williams Road, of which half is the Golf Coast Drive Range and the other half is wooded. Since Estero began the rezoning process of the property last year, the space was intended to attract private investment to the property with the purpose of providing the desired recreational activities and a financial return to the community. 

Since February, the village, later joined by its consultant, Bonita Springs-based Vieste, has been narrowing the top two public private partnership proposals through briefings, public information meetings and resident-led focus groups 

“While we’re doing all of the diligent legal work with the village attorney and going back and forth on establishing those full definitive agreements, we can commit ourselves to each other with our other private partners, recognizing that we’re each going to spend additional investment of time, effort, energy and some money to work the design process and answer a lot of questions that need to be answered,” Vieste CEO Michael Comparato said.  

The term sheets are not a definite agreement but binds the village and the firms to work in good faith over the next couple of months to determine those definitive agreements.  

The two firms recommended as partners to the village were visited by council member George Zalucki. 

Chicken N Pickle is a national leader in the provision of private pickleball facilities, leaving Zalucki with a lot to take in. “I was pretty much in awe,” he said. “I’ve never been in a facility quite like this.” 

The pickleball facility will include 20,000 square feet of indoor entertainment space, six environmentally controlled pickleball courts and an outdoor socializing space. It also will include 12 to 15 outdoor pickleball courts financed and constructed by the village and managed by the operator. 

Council member Jim Ward said the facility seemed like a great fit for Estero. 

While Zalucki was describing his time checking out the facility, he pointed out the incorporation of local community branding. “It looks like these partners would be very open to branding,” he said. “I can see village of Estero on that wall.” 

Personalization to the community was also common in High 5, Zalucki said. High 5 is a provider of multigenerational recreational activities with facilities across the nation.  

“[High 5] is a different concept, yet a really impressive entertainment venue that I think incorporates a large swath of demographics for the community,” Zalucki said. 

High 5 is proposed to consist of two floors of indoor/outdoor entertainment space, including but not limited to, 16 full-size United States Bowling Congress bowling lanes, eight lanes of duckpin bowling, bocce, 18 holes of outdoor miniaturized golf, axe throwing, laser tag, arcade and virtual reality and escape rooms. 

The two facilities would create a recreational space for the village that covers a vast amount of demographics, which was part of the village’s initial intent of the project. 

Each firm will be investing $15 million of their own equity in the project, and both firms are being advanced concurrently as they provide complimentary activities and benefit from a collaborative planning effort on the site. 

Sarkozy anticipates between a 7% to 9% return on investment for the village with these potential partnerships. Only half of the property will be used, with the potential for other partnerships on the unused portion in the future.  

The contract that was already approved with RWA to assist with preliminary site planning would allow design and permitting to start immediately after Council approves any partnerships. Because of this, that contract is on a tight schedule with the intent to provide parcels for construction in April 2024. 

The village will be required to invest approximately $12 million for the public infrastructure to support the project. Funds are available within the current budget but may require a reprioritization of the capital improvement program or some form of debt financing at the discretion of Council. 

Village staff will utilize the summer break in the Council meeting schedule to advance the engineering and design of the public infrastructure, as well as to work to finalize the public private partnership agreement to be presented to Council in the fall.  

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