The future of the Lee Civic Center in question

Reporter: Zach Oliveri Writer: Melissa Montoya
The Lee Civic Center could have a very different future. (CREDIT: WINK News)

There’s a chance the Lee County Fair could be without a place to set up rides or sell funnel cakes.

The Southwest Florida Lee County Fair has been a staple at the Lee County Civic Center for years.

Tonia Johnson-Green fears this could go away.

On Friday, the county’s evaluations committee gave the go-ahead for two different proposals for the civic center — a proposal to turn the area into a hotel and retail space or a proposal to keep it the way it is with improvements made to the existing building.

Both proposals now go to the county’s evaluation committee. Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman  said he favors the plan to fix the civic center. He stressed the county is a long way from making a decision.

“Our little neighborhood is perfect just the way it is,” Johnson-Green said. “That’s part of the reason I moved to where I moved to and love where I live.”

She lives behind the Lee Civic Center. If one developer gets his way, Johnson-Green is worried about what could come next.

Kitson and Partners, the developers behind Babcock Ranch, want to transform the 100-acre land of the Lee Civic Center into a hotel with retail space. That means knocking down the current facility.

Meanwhile, the fair wants to keep the land the way it is with much-needed improvements to the current civic center.

“I’m going to have to get rid of my animals which means I’ll be moving out of this state which means I’ll no longer live here and neither will my family,” Johnson-Green said.

Mike Peak, the president of the Board of Directors of the Southwest Florida Lee County Fair, said his group has a good track record of maintaining the facility.

“We want to continue to do this for everybody,” Peak said.

More than a dozen people who attended the public meeting said they wanted the civic center to stay the way it is.

“I don’t want to see the fair go. That’s the last little piece of that old Southwest Florida culture we have,” said Amanda Cochran, of Alva. “Let’s give it some love. Let’s take care of what’s out there not tear it down because something new comes along.”


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