The Sarasota City Commission made it clear at a Tuesday budget workshop that the Lido Pool is underutilized and gave staff a glimpse of what it expects for the pool’s future.
Commissioner Shannon Snyder called the pool “an underperforming asset on the beach.”
“We need to start thinking bigger here,” Snyder said. “This could be a destination for this community. We need to start looking at this as a high priority for our city.”
Mayor Suzanne Atwell agreed.
“We need to start bragging about our Lido Beach Pavilion and pool the way that Sarasota County brags about Siesta Key,” Atwell said. “We don’t use this asset like we should.”
At the budget workshop, city staff presented a budget for the pool that shows it has $180,000 in expenditures but only brings in $78,000 worth of revenue.
City Manager Bob Bartolotta also explained that it was just brought to the city’s attention that the pool’s current concession operator is opting to terminate its agreement, effective Oct. 1.
“The city is scrambling to put together a request for proposals for concessions,” Bartolotta said.
The news prompted staff to discuss additional opportunities, with the possibility of replacing a concession operator with a waterfront restaurant.
“We need direction for a model, whether it be a non-profit operator or a long-term lease, for someone to put capital into the site,” Bartolotta said. “I can tell you there are very few restaurant bars anywhere in this community, and that might be an opportunity for the city to consider.”
Bartolotta suggested the city find a short-term tenant to operate the concessions, while looking for a long-term tenant that would be willing to sign a 10-year lease.
The city inherited the operation of the Lido Pool after the county turned it over to the city in a wide-ranging reshuffling of parks funding.
Although Commissioner Paul Caragiulo believes a waterfront restaurant might be a tough sell for residents and the Lido Key Residents Association, he believes the city is on the right track.
“They don’t want the pool to be closed, and they want it to be treated with more of the respect that we all believe it deserves,” Caragiulo said.
The Lido Key Residents Association has created a committee with a mission to eliminate the need to close the pool and plans to discuss the matter with the commission in August.
Caragiulo met with Lido residents earlier this month to discuss the pool.
“The pool can’t keep functioning the way it is now,” Caragiulo said. “What needs to be looked at is figuring out how to allow for an attractive deal for a concession operator.”
Carl Shoffstall, a Lido Key Residents Association board member, was glad to hear the commission discussed marketing opportunities for the pool.
“Our main objective is to find ways to try and keep this pool open,” Shoffstall said. “It’s one of the few amenities we have on the island and we need to start using it correctly.”
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].