Wednesday, December 24, 2014 4:51 PM By George Solis, Reporter ABC-7.
2014 is not quite over yet. But a Cape Coral sports club is already thinking well ahead into the new year. The South Florida Canoe Kayak Club is anxiously waiting to get the green light to start on a major project in the Cape.
This time next year the water ways that make up Lake Kennedy could be home to hundreds of international athletes training for the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. But before any of that happens, there’s a few obstacles the club will have to face here at home.
For competitive canoe and kayak pro athlete Kaitlyn McElroy, the warm waters of Lake Kennedy in Cape Coral offer plenty to write home about. “I figured I’d come and I train here for the Christmas holiday when most other places are buried in ice and snow,” said McElroy. When McElroy says she trains, she means it. “I’m part of the U.S. National Team for sprint canoe and kayak. I race 500m and 200m,” said McElroy. While McElroy and other athletes can currently enjoy the amenities at the South Florida Canoe Kayak Club home, the promise of more on the horizon is tantalizing. “Actually, I took a look at the plans and it’s perfect,” said McElroy.
Ian Mack with the club explained to us why the buzz for what they’re proposing is of Olympic proportions. “We’re hoping to be built by January 2016 because that’s an Olympic year. We’ve been told that they will send their teams for months on end because we’re so much closer to Rio than they are,” said Mack. Mack says the plan is to develop the 12 acres — including the home they lease from the city into a state-of-the-art athletic facility with an added public park for other sports. “Everybody benefits. There’s really no negatives to this at all,” said Mack.
Not everyone agrees. Over the last year, the club was met with opposition from some in the area who feared the extra traffic would impact their quality of life. But so far, it’s smooth sailing. “I think we need to look at the bigger picture. I think there is a tremendous opportunity here,” said MerriBeth Van Vlymen.
The fate of the estimated $23 million project will be left to city leaders to vote on in the new year. Athletes hope city leaders will go for gold. “As long as everyone is polite, I think this is going to be excellent,” said McElroy.
The club says while international appeal is great, their focus is on local — which is why they stress this facility will be open to the public. The proposal also includes new features for SunSplash.