FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: John Yarbrough, Lee County Parks & Recreation
FAIR ASSOCIATION OPERATION OF CIVIC CENTER SAVES COUNTY MONEY
FORT MYERS, Fla. (October 26, 2000) – Lee County is poised to enter into a long-term agreement for the Southwest Florida & Lee County Fair Association to manage and operate the 100-acre Lee Civic Center Complex – an arrangement that has saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last five years.
The Board of Lee County Commissioners (BOCC) will consider approval of the 20-year agreement at its Tuesday (Oct. 31) weekly meeting. The two parties entered into a 10-year agreement in January 1996, but it has been so successful that approval of an extension is being requested.
During the last five years, the Fair Association has spent more than $700,000 in repairs and improvements to the complex, including bringing the Center back up to code so it could host concerts and events, repaving the midway and upgrading the campground. Prior to the Fair Association’s involvement, the Civic Center had been losing money and was subsidized through taxpayer dollars. The county also estimates it has saved more than $1 million in repairs and maintenance for the facility.
"This has been a public-private partnership that has paid off for everyone involved," says John Yarbrough, director of the county’s Parks & Recreation Department. "The county has stopped losing money and the Fair Association has been able to reap the financial benefits of successfully running the facility."
In January 1998, the BOCC loaned the Fair Association $200,000 to build a multi-purpose agricultural building at the Complex. Repayment of that loan is on schedule.
The 90,000-square-foot Civic Center, which seats 7,800, opened in 1978 and was built with federal grant funds. The Complex also includes a 15,000-square-foot exposition hall (seating 2,000), 17,000-square-foot pavilion and 2,500-square-foot clubhouse. The Complex also is home to the Southwest Florida-Lee County Fair, which is held annually in late February and early March.