Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Congratulations & The Little Park That Could

Coastal Comments


Congratulations to the Marco Island Historical Museum. These energetic members, staff and volunteers have continued on a steady path to success. Never looking any other way but straight ahead, regardless of COVID or flu, they forged ahead when it was safe to move forward. I was surprised to learn so many residents have not been to the museum yet, but I know… when you live there you think, “I can see it anytime”, and put it off, but that ‘anytime’ lurks out of sight. If you could see what they started with, you would realize what a huge accomplishment they have achieved! And it takes a TEAM to do that! I could name each one of those dedicated people, as they all deserve an award, but I’m afraid I would miss a few people, so I’ll just say that all the staff and the volunteers have made this museum very successful! They were even recognized as the 2020 Travelers’ Choice “Best of the Best!”  

Now is the time to take a ride over there and see for yourself. I do not believe ANY of the other four museums in the County have achieved more or had more visitors! And folks, they did this on their own, with very little participation from the County office. I must admit, the county wanted to “help them” when they opened, but I said to the County Manager Leo Ochs, “Get out of their way! Let them do their thing and they will knock your socks off!” And that they did. I’m happy the Manager stepped aside, or I doubt they would have ever been so successful. He’s really not familiar with the Marco enthusiasm or dedication, but he saw it with his very own eyes! If you have a chance, try to stop by and congratulate them on their accomplishments. They also have other things going on in the main auditorium, like lectures and plays and even events for special times of the year. There’s a lot going on over there, so do drop by. You’ll meet the nicest and friendliest people you could hope for. 

*The East Naples Community Park has been mentioned in the Racquet Sports Industry Magazine’s November/December 2020 edition as they honor individuals and organizations that are making a difference as they are named the “Municipal Facility of the Year! The E.N.C.P is home to the Minto U.S. Open Pickleball Championships since 2016, and has become a world-class Pickleball hub, and is about to become an even more attractive facility due to the $23.4 million in upgrades! Too bad they didn’t get the awful bathrooms done earlier. They are in no shape to welcome this prestigious event for this year, but the event promotors will rent bathroom trailers, which are very clean and have sinks and mirrors and pretty roomy, and they also rent shower trailers for the players to cool down.  

Phase One was completed this year and included 10 new pickleball courts, bringing the venue’s total to 64 courts! I believe this park has more pickleball courts in one location than any other park in the world! The Villages have many courts, but they are scattered over many acres, and I believe we still have more, and all are in one location for the TournamentsOver the past 4 years, the county has converted areas into permanent pickleball courts, installed a huge shade structuretwice actually, because the other was hit by the hurricane a couple years agoand so much more. Improvements in 2021 will include a new welcome center, a 3,500-seat championship stadium and more than 1,000 additional parking spots.  

“Demand, not only for the U.S. Open, but for daily play is still increasing,” says Chris Evon, V.P., of Spirit Promotions and co-founder of the U.S. Open along with Terri Graham. “The BIG Tournament (U.S. Open) pulls in about 2,100 players, but we turn away about 1,000 others.  

We know others want to come, and we are planning for them as we go. That work is creative, to say the least, but they have done it and continuously work on expanding to accommodate the need! From my eye, this is “the Little Park That Could. We have so many children in this area of the county, and most are underprivileged, AND have no playground in their own backyard. This park, however, when it was built, was not built for children or even adults! It had no lights, no landscaping, only a couple of handball courts and a few tennis courts, but no ball fields and NO playground!!! The community center was the size of a postage stamp. My view is, these kids need a park more than others because they have no place to go but hang around street corners, so it took a lot, AND I DO MEAN A LOT, of begging and pleading and pushing and lots of members of the East Naples Civic Association to bring it up to a decent quality park. Not at all the character of the other parks in Collier County, but at least it was better than it was. It was in such bad shape by the time the Pickleball people discovered it, that it couldn’t be salvaged, for the most part, so they came to an agreement that THEY, not the parks, would tear out the broken and disgusting equipment and they would rebuild it for their own use, and that they did, and the beginning of a Pickleball miracle was started. Those people came to my office to talk Pickleball, but I hadn’t the foggiest idea of what they were talking about. So, we began to work together as a team to introduce the game to Collier County.  

So, there you have it, and from there it went wild with interest and friendships! I never saw anything like it! I hope many of you have been there already. It’s not like a regular pickleball facility. It’s AMAZING! 



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