Pensacola Mayor D.C. Reeves hopes to bring “Project Pickle” up for a vote by City Council in January.
Speaking at his first press conference as mayor Tuesday, Reeves said he is continuing negotiations begun under former Mayor Grover Robinson to bring an indoor sports facility to the Port of Pensacola’s Warehouse No. 4.
The proposed facility would include indoor modular courts that could be used for multiple sports, including pickleball which has surged in popularity in recent years.
“I’ve had some really good conversations with the folks that would be operating that facility,” Reeves said.
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Reeves said he expects a vote could occur on the project in January.
Pensacola businessman Rob Fabbro and attorney Scott Remington presented their vision for the project to the City Council earlier this month.
The facility would be privately run and converted into a sports facility with a $2 million investment from the private sector. The city would have to agree to approve a lease that would have lower lease payments for the first few years as the project gets off the ground, though the exact details are still in negotiations.
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The proposed project includes building a 400-seat arena in a later phase of the project that could be used for tournament championship games. The modular courts could be used as five basketball, futsal or tennis courts, or 11 volleyball or pickleball courts. Additionally, the proposal calls for building 12 outdoor multi-use courts.
Warehouse 4 is located next to the Commendencia Slip, where the Pensacola Bay ferries operate, and the security perimeter could easily be moved to allow public access to the building.
Developers would fund the facility through membership fees members of the public would pay to use the facility.
The project is one of the several things Reeves has on his plate after taking over the mayor’s office from Robinson last week.
At his Tuesday press conference, Reeves also mentioned long-term efforts such as continuing to work toward the future expansion of the airport, which saw a busy holiday travel week during Thanksgivings.
Reeves said while the city has long-term plans, such as a renovated new airport terminal, it can’t ignore the short-term things, such as the ongoing problems with escalators.
“I know it’s frustrating,” Reeves said. “Throughout this building and other buildings in the city, I’ve talked about my general challenge: what does the customer see? And what I mean is, what does the taxpayer see when they walk into City Hall, when they walk into our airport? It sometimes can seem like a little thing, but those matter. It’s the sense of pride that somebody takes in their community. It’s a sense of pride that our employees have to show up at work every day.”
Reeves is also preparing for the local state legislative delegation meeting next week. Reeves said he expects the city is looking to the Legislature to aid in “attainable housing.”
“We’re exploring what our options are and, again, what that looks like. Is that something that we can make a legislative ask on now versus something that we would react to during or after session?” Reeves said. “We don’t know the sequencing yet, but obviously, that’s something we’re going to be focused on.”
Reeves said one of his priorities is improving employee engagement for city employees, and as part of that, he wants to meet new employees at orientations the city holds every two weeks. Reeves said he went to the orientation Monday, where he met eight new city employees.
“(I told them) I thought this would be fitting because it’s my first day too,” Reeves said. “So any of you in here, we’ll all be in this together. We’ll have the same days served. So I’m really excited to get started in that. It’s something that’s been important to me at every step of my career. And we do have great people working here that care about this community.”
Jim Little can be reached at [email protected] and 850-208-9827.