St. Armands

Residents Association

Ken Thompson Park (on City Island)

Special events held at Ken Thompson Park on City Island can cause significant traffic congestion on St. Armands Key.  One local business person has proposed to privatize the park and turn it into a year-round tourist attraction with rides, a restaurant, and more.

January 20, 2024

Significant traffic congestion resulted from the St. Armands Food Truck Rally and Music Festival that, despite the name, was actually held at Ken Thompson Park on City Island.

January 24, 2024

Commissioner Erik Arroyo has invited Jeff Koffman of RIDE Entertainment, one of the guys, who, with his brother David:

    • were behind the controversial St. Armands winter festival 
    • appear to have a connection to the 2022 Mayor's Ball that led to an investigation of Commissioner Arroyo by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement
    • appear to have an association with the operation of a controversial New Jersey amusement park that was featured in a 2020 documentary titled Class Action Park ("Welcome To Action Park: The World’s Most Dangerous Amusement Park") [link 1, link 2, link 3 present at the upcoming Monday, Feb 5th, City Commission Meeting about taking some level of private control of Ken Thompson Park on City Island.

Here are some links with more information:

    • Link to a city email about the upcoming presentation, at the request of Commissioner Erik Arroyo
    • Link to a video in that email featuring an amusement park ride called the Aerobar with the caption: "Why drink on the ground when you can drink in the sky"
    • Link to the actual presentation with concept drawings
    • Link to the Feb 5th City Commission Agenda (see item II.1)

January 30, 2024

February 3, 2024

The proposed privatization of Ken Thompson Park was discussed at the monthly CCNA meeting.  An informal poll of the city-wide neighborhood delegates showed near-unanimous opposition to this idea.

February 5, 2024

The City Commission voted 3-2 to refer the unsolicited proposal to privatize Ken Thompson Park on City Island to the City's Parks, Recreation & Environmental Protection Advisory Board (PREP Board) for their review and recommendations.  Because this was placed on the agenda as a presentation instead of new business, no public input was allowed.

    • Link to presentation material: click here
    • Link to video of the meeting: click here
    • City Commission discussion about whether or not to move this forward, which takes place at the very end of the meeting: Fast Forward to 6:08:51 (6 hours, 8 minutes, 51 seconds)
    • Discussion ends at 6:29:16 (about 20 minutes duration)

February 7, 2024

February 13, 2024

Email from a past-president of the Lido Shores Property Owners Association (LSPOA), to the City Parks, Recreation, and Environmental Protection (PREP) Advisory Board

Dear Parks, Recreation and Environmental Protection Board,

I am a year round resident of Lido Shores a neighborhood that encompasses some 225 homeowners living at the north end of Lido Key. Our neighborhood as did the neighborhoods of Longboat Key, St Armand's, Lido and Bird Key, (not to mention the many people who visited our beautiful Lido Beach from the City and County) endured one of the worst bouts of traffic congestion during the recent St. Armand's Food Truck & Music Festival which took place at Ken Thompson Park, and are extremely concerned about similar future events, whether staged intermittently or on a regular basis.

Traffic between downtown and Lido Key often backs up at various times of the day, even when there are no special events, road/utility projects or accidents. It can take close to an hour to travel from Westway Drive to the Gulfstream Avenue Roundabout and this is before St Regis is open.

The group who brought us the failed St. Armand's Winter Festival is now proposing to privatize some part of Ken Thompson Park and permanently develop it as an amusement venue, featuring carnival attractions, golf coarse, “a bar in the sky". And I'm sure other events throughout the year to draw even more traffic. This portends for us a non-stop replay of the Food Truck Festival and the traffic tie-ups it generated. The last thing we need is more cars and trucks coming across Ringling Causeway, squeezing into the single lane between St. Armand's Circle and Ken Thompson Park and making it impossible for residents and visitors to get to their destinations in a reasonable time.

In consideration of traffic congestion, impeded emergency vehicle access, the harmful impact on our diminishing quiet green spaces , environmental impacts and more, we respectfully ask you vote against any proposed commercialization of Ken Thompson Park. Allowing this special space to fall prey to business interests with no connection to the City’s barrier islands will drastically alter the character of our immediate environment and certainly diminish the quiet quality of life we presently enjoy.

We thank you in advance for supporting our very important cause.

February 14, 2024

Email from the Mayor of the Town of Longboat Key to the City Parks, Recreation, and Environmental Protection (PREP) Advisory Board

PREP Board: As Mayor of Longboat Key, I have had conversations with many of our residents who share... [resident] concerns about the proposed use of Ken Thompson Park. While we would welcome some upgrades to the park-- such as improvements to the playground and paths, addition of beach areas and a splash pad, and introduction of a water taxi facility-- the conversion of portions of the park to a private, profit-making enterprise that could intensify the use of such environmentally delicate space would be detrimental to the barrier island environment. Moreover, seasonal traffic from St. Armand's Circle through Longboat Key is one of our most difficult problems and could not support an "amusement park" type use on City Island. We believe improvements by the City similar to those recently concluded at downtown's Bayfront Park would be a much more appropriate plan for that space. Thanks.

February 15, 2024

The City Parks, Recreation & Environmental Protection Advisory Board (PREP Board) had Ken Thompson Park on their agenda, but they announced at the beginning of the meeting that they would not be discussing it.  However, that did not stop numerous residents in attendance from voicing their opposition to the proposal to privatize the park.

Citizen input is occurs near the beginning of the meeting.  Board general discussion occurs toward the end of the meeting, and the Board discusses the idea of putting "conversation easements" on an upcoming agenda as a tool to protect parks like Ken Thompson Park (and others) from future commercialization.

February 17, 2024

February 17, 2024

At the Lido Key Residents Association Annual Breakfast Meeting, Mote Marine Education Director Aly Blusse reported that:

    • City Island is not the best location for local schools to get to because of distance and traffic
    • Mote will continue to operate research and education facilities on City Island and that they will remain open to the public
    • Sarasota Bay Explorers will continue to operate their educational boat tours out of City Island

February 20, 2024

During public comments toward the beginning of a regular City Commission Meeting, a Bird Key resident makes the following remarks:

Today I’m going to give you the feedback on the City Island Amusement Park that you wouldn’t take on the 5th, with the added benefit of having listened to the extensive discussion and vote that you took during commissioner’s comments. So, in no order:

    • The top three needs identified in the Parks Master Plan for Ken Thompson were, 1. Restrooms, 2. Neighborhood Park, and 3. Seating. Nowhere can I find an amusement park.
    • Not only does the proposal address NONE of these needs it will exacerbate the number one issue identified in the plan, TRAFFIC, in what is already, a bottlenecked, traffic congested area. Clearly the city recognizes these traffic problems as it has dedicated 90% of the bike lane on the Ringling Bridge exclusively for the free shuttle, which still can’t maintain a reliable schedule.
    • The Parks Master Plan does NOT describe Ken Thompson as underutilized. As a matter of fact, if it is so underutilized why do people need to park in the green areas?
    • Why do the conclusions of a study, commissioned, and paid for by a developer who wishes to develop our park, trump our own much more extensive study and master plan?
    • Are all city properties now eligible for public/private partnerships if someone commissions a study to show they’re underutilized? And on top of that without need for competing bids, especially with our awful track record.
    • What is the definition of well utilized and by who residents or tourists?
    • It’s a bad idea to replace a free park with an amusement park. No one in Sarasota wants to emulate Orlando.

These facts and questions were easily addressable on the 5th and the proposal should have been dismissed yet, inexplicably, you chose to refer this to the Parks and Rec Board. Why did we bother spending time and money on a Parks Master Plan if we’re going to simply ignore it when a developer comes to us with a proposal?

It got worse during commissioner’s comments when Mayor Alpert dismissed the concerns of the people she ostensibly represents when she said that that the city is more than one neighborhood, and that people are opposed to anything that adds even one car to traffic. An amusement park on City Island is going to add a hell of a lot more than one car! As for neighborhoods, Bird Key, Coon Key, St. Armand’s Key, Lido Shores, and the rest of Lido Key will all suffer from the increased traffic. I did not mention Longboat since if the concerns of city residents don’t matter, I don’t see why theirs would either.

March 6, 2024

The City's Parks and Recreation Public Realm Master plan was made available at this link.

March 13, 2024

Observer article:  Potential City Island investors want to leave a legacy

From the article:

"We’re changing the name to Park Golf Entertainment,” Jeffrey Koffman said.

March 18, 2024

Herald-Tribune article:  Sarasota to consider private development at Ken Thompson Park, as residents cite concerns

From the article: 

What was not mentioned is that Arroyo is listed as a registered agent for both Park Golf Entertainment and Koffman's other company, Park Golf Entertainment Orlando, according to Florida business records. According to the meeting's agenda item, the proposal was added at Arroyo's request, and he was listed as a co-presenter.  

Question:  Should Commissioner Erik Arroyo have recused himself from the February 5th City Commission discussion and vote?

March 18, 2024

At a Regular City Commission Meeting, during citizen input toward the beginning of the meeting, a city resident brings up this potential conflict of interest, and shows State business records corroborating this--that Commissioner Arroyo is the registered agent of Park Golf Entertainment.

During Commissioner Comments toward the end of the same City Commission meeting, Commissioner Arroyo reads a statement saying something to the effect that he doesn't believe there was or is a conflict of interest.

March 21, 2024

The Lido Shores neighborhood is staging a rally at City Hall to protest the proposed commercialization of neighboring Ken Thompson Park, to let everyone know that they are determined to keep the park green and free to all. 

There is a scheduled Parks & Recreation Advisory Board meeting in City Hall at 5:30pm this same day. The park commercialization proposal is not on the agenda, but anyone can speak about any topic during the Citizen Input portion of the meeting.

March 21, 2024

ABC7 news story and video:  Dozens rally to protect Ken Thompson Park

March 21, 2024

At a regular meeting of the city's Parks, Recreation, and Environmental Protection (PREP) Advisory Board, the park commercialization proposal was not on the agenda, but several citizens still showed up to speak against the privatization proposal during Citizen Input portion of the meeting.
    • Link to video:  click here
    • For citizen input, fast forward to:  00:26:25 (0 hours, 26 minutes, 25 seconds) 

March 21, 2024

City Attorney email in response to a citizen inquiry Re: Remove Eric Arroyo from Ken Thompson vote

March 25, 2024

This City of Sarasota news release lists the boat ramp at Ken Thompson Park as the one to use when the Centennial Park boat ramp downtown is unavailable.

March 28, 2024

The City Attorney sends this memo to the City Commission regarding Commissioner Arroyo's potential conflict of interest with RIDE Entertainment, now operating as Park Golf Entertainment.

April 4, 2024

The Board of Directors of the St. Armands Residents Association approves this letter sent to the City's PREP Board.  

April 6, 2024

At the monthly CCNA meeting (agenda, video), a Position Statement against the Commercialization and Privatization of City of Sarasota Parks was voted on and unanimously approved.

April 9, 2024

It was reported that a representative of RIDE Entertainment had been caught going door to door in the Lido Shores neighborhood, soliciting residents to answer a questionnaire about Ken Thompson Park. Apparently, residents told them to get lost.

April 10, 2024

Deputy City Manager Robinson sent an email to the City Commissioners stating: "Ride Entertainment has made the decision to remove their item/presentation scheduled for April 18th PREP Board."

No additional details were provided.  We don't know if this is just temporary or if the proposal is being withdrawn. We don't know if Commissioners Alpert, Arroyo, and Battie--all of whom are up for reelection this November--will put this back on the City Commission agenda this summer to try to vote it through without a a review by the PREP Board.

April 12, 2024

Email from the City Attorney in which he says "it may or may not mean the proposal is dead".

April 18, 2024

While the Ken Thompson Park proposal had been removed from the agenda, the PREP Board discussed public-private partnerships in general.  Click here for the video. 

    • Discussion begins at 31:55 (fast forward to 31 minutes, 55 seconds)
    • Motion to ask City Attorney about how to limit the use of public property to public use, including conservation easements at 1:25:10 (fast forward to 1 hour, 25 minutes, 10 seconds)

May 31, 2024

Email from the Chair of the City PREP Board to the City Attorney about protecting city parks from development/commercialization.

St. Armands Residents Association

P.O. Box 2482, Sarasota, FL  34230

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