City Commission, staff and Cooper Sportsplex take the initial steps
For the past couple of City Council meetings, Commissioner Billie Dean has pressed the idea of a public/private partnership for the City of Apopka. There weren’t always a lot of specifics in his ideas, but a consistent theme to partner with Apopka businesses in ventures that would benefit the community was a common thread.
But last Wednesday he pinpointed his plan.
Dean used the time allotted to the City Commissioners to propose the Council have a discussion on a partnership with the Cooper Sportsplex. He invited Michael Cooper, the owner of the Sportsplex, to address the Council with what sounded like a specific plan.
“We’re all for partnering with the City if the City can come up with a deal where we can work together,” Cooper said. “We’d like to know what extent that the City would like to work with us. We’d definitely like to see the City get involved with us because it’s for the community. We’re not going to gather a lot from this, but the community could gather a lot. There’s also a good possibility if we got the City to partner with us of putting in an Olympic-sized pool over there (the Cooper Sportsplex) We have the room. We have the parking. There’s so much potential there for the city to get on the map as a sports community. You already have the Field of Dreams (Northwest Recreational Complex) which is a huge facility and a huge benefit to the city.”
The Cooper Palms Sports Complex is a 101,000 square-foot facility that features 31,000 square feet of indoor space for basketball, volleyball and multi-purpose courts. About 12,000 square feet is dedicated to two indoor trampoline parks, and a café will take another 5,000 square feet of space. It is a massive facility that was completed in July of 2016.
“So are you proposing to build a pool?” Mayor Joe Kilsheimer asked.
“That’s something I’d like to talk about too with the City to see if they could pick up part of the financing,” said Cooper. “We could also meet with Orange County to see if the (Orange County Public) school board would like to get involved with us. Or if we could set up a five or 10-year contract with OCPS to have all of their events here in this area. I think that’s a possibility.”
Dean has long been an advocate for the children of South Apopka who have no place to go. He has often made the connection of a lack of amenities for them translating into a higher crime rate in the community.
“Some children have nothing to do,” he said. “Partnering with Cooper to bring in a pool would give them an opportunity to get out of the devil’s workshop so to speak.”
The idea then got Commissioner Doug Bankson’s creative juices flowing too.
“It’s possible Florida Hospital would be a player in something like this due to the close proximity… and working on rehab and different things along that line,” he said. “It really would be great if we can find projects to work together on. I really think it would be a win/win for everyone.”
City Administrator Glenn Irby took the next step in making the idea a little more tangible.
“I’d like to make a suggestion that you give us (City staff) direction to start an investigation on this all the way up to costs of different projects that we could actually do with the facility (Cooper Sportsplex)… and then bring it back to you at a later date. I don’t know how long it will take. There are a lot of loose ends that need to be tied up, including financing which would all be general fund, but if we get that direction, we’ll start on it tomorrow.”
And the idea of more details got Commissioner Kyle Becker interested.
The facility you have Mr. Cooper is second to none. It’s a beautiful facility. I would like to entertain more detail about what we’re actually talking about. I would love to explore and march down the road to see where this can lead to. Because really if you think about it, you make a great point. It’s a regional, state and national draw to this area and that drives the demand of what we’re trying to build in the City of Apopka. Our hotel space, our City Center space, it all goes to support each other, so I would like to see more detail on what we’re actually proposing.”
“Well, I think the door has been opened,” said Kilsheimer. ”
And it’s an interesting view on the other side of that door.
The public–private partnership is becoming so trendy that it has three acronyms (PPP 3P and P3), and its own Wikipedia page. It is generally defined as a cooperative arrangement between one or more public and private sectors, typically of a long-term nature. Governments have used such a mix of public and private endeavors throughout history. However, the past few decades has seen a clear trend towards governments making greater use of various PPP arrangements.
For Apopka, it would be the first major PPP endeavor.