Not much more than a year ago, a proposed $5.7 million expansion and rebranding of the Palm Coast tennis center as a regional racquet club was a thunderhead of controversy and divided votes on the Palm Coast City Council. Today, a revised and largely expanded $11.35 million plan to remake the grounds with a luxurious community center, solar-power-arrayed pickle balls, a dog park and a trailhead as bucolic as it’ll be ritzy drew almost nothing but praise and no detectable resistance from four council members.
“That’s why so many people want to be here, because we provide these quality amenities to the community,” Council member John Fanelli said.
The Lehigh Trailhead Project would remake the land on the east side of Belle Terre Parkway, north of the tennis center (under the high-voltage powerlines, near Fire Station 25). It would have a community garden, including 18 garden plots and a compost bin, a 1.3-acre dog park, a restroom, two shaded pavilions, and an exercise trail. The Lehigh Trail borders its northern edge. There would be 72 parking spaces.
The trailhead project adds up to $2.52 million, with a Florida Department of Transportation grant shouldering $1.6 million of that, park impact fees picking up $651,000, and the State Road 100 Community Redevelopment Agency or Town center zone, which has its own tax revenue, picking up $289,000.
That’s just a start. The $11.35 million Recreation Facility Project is the main course. There’ll be a community building, including administrative offices, restrooms and locker rooms, a kitchen and dining room, two multi-purpose rooms, a lobby and patio spaces, plus six covered pickle ball courts possibly lit up through a solar-energy array, and six lit up the more fossilized way.
The recreation facility will capture users among existing residents and a projected 1,000 new dwellings to be built in Town center alone, Carl Cote, the city’s director of engineering, said.
Park impact fees would cover $7.1 million of the project, the State Road 100 CRA would pick up $3.5 million. The city is in line for a $739,000 Tourist Development grant–the grant that made the news recently as revelations emerged that Flagler Beach failed to apply for it. The TDC makes its recommendation on that grant next week, and the County Commission is to ratify the decision in August.
Previously, the city was going to draw at least in part on the general fund, which is supported by property taxes. “Due to the rise in development and the influx of the park impact fees, we were able to fund this without using any of the general fund dollars,” Cote said–assuming the TDC grant makes it through whole. “We’re the sole applicants for the TDC grant, right?” Mayor David Alfin said. “That would give us a 99 percent assurity that we would get it, right?” Actually, it’s still in the TDC’s hands, then in the commission’s hands, to decide whether to award the full amount or a smaller amount.
The project is phased over three fiscal years. Contracts would be awarded in July, with the bulk of the construction happening in 2022, wrapping up in December 2023. The council will have to approve a series of contracts to different contractors and firms covering all the costs. There appears to be no opposition, even from Ed Danko, the council member who gave voice to the opposition to the expansion in 2021.
“And this is a scaled-down version from what we were originally talking about,” Danko asked.
“Not quite,” Alfin said. “Not only is it scaled down, but it’s flex space now, so now it’s a a community center, which affords the public the opportunity to–it relieves the pressure on our community center, which is now over booked.”
“Scaled down” is a stretch: “shift” is more accurate. Gone, at least for now, is talk of a combined 42 tennis and pickle ball courts, perhaps because the city is realizing that tennis is not nearly the booming sport it once was. Gone is talk of a massive stadium center court. Gone, too, is talk of calling it all the Reilly Opelka Racquet Center, after the often Palm Coast-based tennis pro who’s made a name for himself as a top American player, but is still struggling to break through the elite of the sport. (His parents live in Grand Haven.) The city’s TDC application was equivocal about the name. The city is now referring to the future 63-acre complex as the Southern Recreation Facility
Danko also posed a question that the city in 2021 evaded: “We will have to hire additional employees to staff this facility, correct?” he asked. “Do we have any type of business plan or model or anything?”
“I know by offering some of the program spaces here, they’re probably going to have a couple of additional staff, it won’t be until fiscal year 2023,” Cote said.
The proposed cost, however, is not scaled back: to the contrary. When the tennis center expansion was proposed last year, it was to start with a $5.7 million plan focused on new pickle ball and tennis courts, including the stadium court, restrooms, a lobby and reception area, a pro shop, locker room facilities. The present plan is more immediately ambitious, and costly.
“All I want to know is, will we be able to break even on this?” Danko asked. The answer wasn’t a direct yes, but that the city would be aiming for what remains a nebulous goal: city parks don’t make money, nor do they “break even” in the classical sense of the term, when considered amenities. But they do unquestionably end up being supported by the city’s tax base, and principally by its property tax base: that’s how employees are paid. So to claim that the expansion will not be drawing on the general fund is true only regarding fixed, capital costs–not recurring, annual operational costs. The conflating of numbers persisted, however.
The new plan’s inclusion of a dog park may have been a nod to the councilman, who takes his dog to the dog park at Holland Park several times a week. Danko was concerned about having a single dog park serving all dogs, large and small. But the acreage and Florida Power and Light’s uses of the area, warding off certain fencing, makes it problematic to split the park, Cote said. The discussion now is to open a small-dog park further south on Belle Terre or to have different hours for different-size dogs at the principal park.
“Two things that are fantastic: the migration away from using general fund dollars and I also encourage the exploration of the solar possibilities,” Council member Nick Klufas said.
“The shades for the additional pickleball courts not only make the pickleball courts usable during the heat but also for sure summertime programming that can occur at these facilities,” Klufas, the council’s most global-warming-conscious member, said. “It’s really important to keep kids out of the sun and just in general when it is like it is outside now during the midday without any type of shade. It’s really brutal out there. And that makes the space usable almost around the clock.”
The council had two options for a solar array: one option was a partial array, costing $275,000, the other covering the entire roof of the pickle balls, for $528,000, saving the city over $200,000 over 25 years, or $19,300 a year. The cells start losing their efficiency after 25 years. “It is a cost-benefit option to do this option,” Cote said. But for now federal grants are not available. It wasn’t clear from Tuesday’s meeting what solar option the council will choose. The facility will also provide an electric-car charging station.
Only four of the council’s five members heard the recreation center presentation because Eddie Branquinho had walked out earlier in the meeting.
Can someone tell me where this 11.35 million is coming from to spruce up the tennis center?? Also is the tennis center widely used by the majority of residents of Palm Coast or by a small segment of the population? If this money is being provided by the city I can think of a lot better and more needed project then this.
The source of the $11.35 million is spelled out in the article.
How about fix the splash pad for the kids. Would be nice for them to cool off at the park but its been barricaded and not worked on over a year. Well done compost! Oops 😅 palm coast
jOE sTOLFI says
I hope this turns out better than the WATER PARK .
and I wonder HOW EXPENSIVE the cost overruns will be ?
Jeff Miller says
Unbelievable, the membership fee is already to high for the normal person to join. Can only image what the new membership will cost. Tennis is a dieing sport anymore. Why waste the money on new tennis courts. Total waste of money being spent…
Why would the city of Palm Coast waste so much tax payer money on Pickleball courts when just 20 miles away Pictona is expanding to 48 courts with a championship court that seats 1200 people. They already have a lock in on local and national tournaments. If the city thinks this will be profitable, they are again making a mistake. It would be less expensive if the city paid for a Pictona membership for all their interested residents
What a waste!
11million dollars on a tennis/pickball facility. How can you label this a recreational center when it’s target demographic is senior citizens. It’s overdue that this city build an actual recreational center for the youth!Indoor basketball, pool , weight room ,ect…
The youth in this town have nothing to do and no-where to go and it only channels their energy away from physical activity. This is just selfish.
The dude says
I’ve been going up to St. Augustine to play with “intermediate” level players.
Lots of the youths playing pickleball up there.
It’s not just for the olds.
Willy James says
Well, here we go again! Pissing away money that could be used in other beneficial ways. But, if the wise assholes on the city council are intent on doing this project that will only benefit a few then let’s splurge. I think you need another Nick Kluless splash pad as well as some basketball courts. Also, put in a baseball field. Finally, the coup de grace should be focused on limited parking similar to the current rec center parking. Oh, and let’s name this facility the Mullins Center. After all, Joe Mullins runs the county and we should pay homage.
Money that could be better spent doing something else the entire community can afford and partake in. Once again, Republican leadership caters to the rich. Wait for the signs to pop up prohibiting certain members – No LGBTQ, no POC, no liberals (they’ll check your voter reg), I mean why not, the membership cost now exceeds what the average person can afford. What a joke.
Scaled back but costs double, ummm? More than likely this this will cost over $15 Million when all is said and done and the citizens will be on the hook. Fix the splash pad first before wasting more money.
Splash Pad First! says
Maybe the elected powers that be controlling the Purse strings should finish what they started and repair the Splash pad, Its over 90 degrees every day its draconian to fence off the area after what a few weeks of service almost a year ago? I played some tennis the other day at Holland, the courts were almost empty just one other group playing pickle ball on one half of a tennis court. The splash Pad was amazing I remember 50 kids all having the time of their lives during its short lived life span. Eddie Branquino dosnt want it I get that but he also dosnt seem to want his job anymore either. I regret my vote for him.
Jack Howell says
Splash Pad First I was on the City Council and argued not to build the splash pad. I had previous experience with a splash pad in Jacksonville. I was the Supervisor for ocean rescue and the park manager asked me for help as she was at her wit’s end. It turned out to be a major headache with numerous problems. I knew that this was going to be a major screw-up. But like anything else the council gets involved with, they don’t listen to wise advice and throw money away on half-baked ideas. Sorry to see I was right! There is an old saying about polishing a turd. You have to rub the shit out of it AKA you can’t polish a turd!
MAGA is as MAGA does.
A. Lien says
Personally, I would like to see a Space Observatory go up with a HUGE telescope to search the night skies for alien life species. I’m sick and tired of looking at the species on this planet !
The ORIGINAL land of no turn signals says
Just another money pit with no tax revenue.The up keep / maintenance will be astronomical when you add all those high paid bosses.
G Zemaitis says
I originally came to Palm Coast in 1984 at which time there was a beautiful tennis complex that was on the corner of Palm Coast Parkway. Obviously this is before the bridge was built. I left the area in 1989 and return In 2016 I was surprised that that large piece of property with the fanastic tennis center was no longer. Can someone tell me what happened and why it was torn down and now just a huge Ugly piece of property. Are there any plans for this property?
HAARY M says
When will this end with this council members wasting money on bs, the people in this town need for a vote on any big projects in town , we have no streets lights , sidewalks , we still have alot homes with pep systems , why do members allows big homes builders to tap in city sewers, but not the home owners who been for years ,we are losing that small town feel with all this big home community been build here , I say lets start to vote these people out of office , there are bleeding this town dry .
Why isn’t there a dedicated senior center that focuses on the needs and wants of seniors and not a “community center”.
Jimmy McEnroe says
I love it! Will be a fine asset to our community. Build another at Indian Trails while you’er at it. Build a gym somewhere too open to the public, or entice the Y to come in.
People don’t move or even stay here because the sheriff gets a new ops center, or because of a new garbage collector, or because the mayor needed a raise. It’s ammenities that really matter to the citizenry.
Nicky Plaid says
Regarding Opelka “…but is still struggling to break through the elite of the sport”; at the time of this writing he’s ranked 17th in the world, unnecessary dig.
In eight years on the tour Reilly Opelka has only once made it to the fourth round of a grand slam or an ATP Masters tournament, and no further. We wish him well–and certainly no other news source has covered him as assiduously or enthusiastically, going back to his most obscure days–but he has yet to break through to the elite of the sport.
Nicky Plaid says
Not true! In 2021, ATP Masters 1000 Canada & Rome. In Canada he lost in the finals to Daniil Medvedev
(Current world #1) and in Rome he lost in the semis to Rafael Nadal (Current world #3.) He also made it to the 4th round of the US Open in 2021, which I’m sure is the grand slam you reference.
He’s beat top 10 in the world ranked opponents, 7 times.
This year he’s won his 3rd and 4th ATP Titles.
Reilly hit a 144.8 mph second serve in the quarterfinals of the 2021 Italian Open in Rome, that’s the record for the fastest second serve ever recorded.
Say it with me. Elite.
Over 11 milllions in a Nick Klufas Grand Haven cheerers picker ball courts but $240,000 cost, which under Hollands administration were approved $300,000 and budgeted to be used, were voted down by council and mayor now for the two islands with palm trees and ornamentals landscape to be built in Florida Park Drive to promote safety and health by slowing down traffic…and help to enhance the curve appeal of that eyesore and traffic mayhem road. Did the $300,000 budgeted for Florida Park Drive were redirected to Klufas picker ball courts and “luxurious” installations on it? Also over 2.5 millions on the Lehigh Trail to benefit the new developers projects neaby? “Luxury is not what we need” but instead safety and health promoting projects for existing mayhems in the heart of old Palm Coast like Florida Park Drive is what is neded for its residents! This council and mayor choices may have consequences from booting the Green Lion and our excellent service Waste Pro, Diamond towers proposed at or less that 150 fts from homes, all living facilities, utility sewer lift station and gas stations with additional approval of thousands of multifamily housing without proper infrastructure in place by just unilaterally changing the zoning without the residents oppossing input. Palm Coast needs growth with a plan and also to hear the residents pleas that are wholly ignored!
The dude says
Is this a word salad?
Calling this a recreation center would insinuate that there would be more to do than pickleball and tennis. Why not dial back the needlepin focus from a single sport catering to the oldsters; and create a real community recreation center with basketball courts, indoor track, exercise equipment. For $11 million we should be referring to college campus recreation centers around the nation that function as their communities recreation facilities as well. Offering more activities will bring in more participation and money to maintain the thing.