Schroeder-Manatee Ranch purchases a new bus to offer tours of the community.
Frank Verdel, a Lakewood Ranch community ambassador who guides bus tours from the information center, talked about a recent trip where he watched as a man and a woman who didn't know each other struck up a conversation.
"Next thing I know, I go to Music on Main and I see them walking together down Main Street," Verdel said.
He isn't saying that those who take the community's free guided bus tour will forge new relationships, but you never know.
Since Schroeder-Manatee Ranch started offering Lakewood Ranch bus tours from the information center in February, the popularity has grown. Laura Cole, the vice president of marketing for Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, said SMR had rented vans to see whether the offering would be popular.
More than 20 people a week were showing up for the tours so they had to turn people away.
To coincide with its opening of the new information center Oct. 1 at 8131 Lakewood Main Street, SMR purchased a Freightliner 32-passenger bus so it could meet the demand. It will leave from the new information center.
"We decided to go all out with the bus tours," Cole said. "We feel they give visitors a full picture of Lakewood Ranch."
Besides buying the bus, SMR now is offering the tours on Tuesday and Friday at 9:30 a.m. and they last until noon.
"It has been quite fascinating," Verdel said. "This has been our window to the world. It allows us to show different features of the community. It enhances the way Lakewood Ranch is connected. The story of Lakewood Ranch is right out there."
Verdel said he has been getting a mix of those from outside the area who are looking for a new home to local residents who want to know more about their community or who might be thinking about changing neighborhoods.
"We get to show people what is new, and what is next," he said.