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Four recreational proposals for a 20-acre village-owned property on Williams Road were approved by the Estero Village Council on Wednesday. The approval authorized Village Manager Steve Sarkozy to proceed with negotiations and draft definitive agreements. 

“This is simply the requested action to approve the shortlist of projects, or potential partners and move this item along with the intent that over the next six weeks or so that we’ll negotiate agreements to come back to the Village Council for approval,” Sarkozy said. 

The six-week window will not only consist of negotiating with firms, as Council seeks a substantial amount of public participation and involvement. 

“We’ll be recommending that we do one or two public forums. We’re going to try to meet with a number of different groups out there that may have ideas on how to use this property,” Sarkozy said. “But try to do all of that as we’re negotiating new site plans and new business arrangements with these private firms.” 

The initial objective for soliciting proposals was to meet the needs of the community in terms of recreation, but also to find ways of producing revenue on an ongoing basis. 

The village anticipates having an ongoing revenue stream will help defray the costs of maintenance on other nearby recreational properties, Sarkozy said. 

Michael Comparato, CEO of Bonita Springs-based Vieste program management firm, will work alongside the village throughout negotiations.  

“In addition to the opportunity to generate revenue for offset of expenses, we’ve also tried to stay focused on the opportunity for multi-generational programming,” Comparato said. “As the community grows, we want to make sure that all generations that live within Estero are taken care of and provided opportunities to recreate and enjoy those entertainment options.”  

A proposal from Texas-based High 5 Entertainment plans to have two floors of indoor and outdoor entertainment space, with at least 16 full-size bowling lanes. Some of the other amenities include outdoor miniaturized golf, axe throwing, immersive laser tag, escape rooms and arcade and virtual reality. 

The second proposal is from Crystal Lagoons, a multinational company that developed and patented technology allowing crystalline lagoons of different sizes to be built and maintained at low costs. It includes a 4.35-acre lagoon with 0.79 acres of white sandy beaches, plus infrastructure for retail stores, restaurants, an event esplanade and a wedding peninsula. 

The last two proposals are from competing interests, Comparato said. Kansas City, Missouri-based Chicken N Pickle and Atlanta-based Pickle and Social both offer pickleball based entertainment and a recreational concept of offerings.  

Chicken N Pickle proposed a complex containing a minimum of 14 pickleball courts, a fast-casual restaurant with a rooftop bar and first floor sports bar, three indoor private event spaces and a game yard. Pickle and Social proposed 14 pickleball courts, including six climate-controlled indoor pickleball courts, four outdoor courts, a restaurant with a rooftop bar for full food and beverage offerings and private event spaces. 

The village can also consider the continued operation of the Golf Coast Driving Range, which would be held to the same criteria being applied to the four firms that have submitted proposals. 

“The first thing we’ll want to do is sort through those two rather competing pickleball-related options to make sure that we have the best dynamics and the best collaborative and possible partnership opportunity there,” Comparato said. “Moving forward, it will be a very, very aggressive and very intense, not only negotiation, but diligence period as we work through the very best option that we can come up with for the village.” 

Council member Jim Ward said staff needs to focus on how the new amenities are going to impact the village from the perspective of infrastructure. 

“It would be a serious mistake for anybody, and we certainly won’t allow this to happen, to focus our land planning efforts just within the boundaries of the site,” Comparato said. “Impact on infrastructure, traffic, circulation, ingress, egress, all those things have to be taken into consideration.” 

Mayor Katy Errington said whatever happens on the 20 acres needs to be what’s good for the entirety of Estero, with options for every age group. 

The village will negotiate agreements with interested parties and will come back to Council for adoption in April or May, with many opportunities for public input throughout the process.

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