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East County Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020 2 weeks ago

Broader use could be in Sarasota Polo Club's future

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James Miller says weddings, concerts and other special events could produce needed income.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

As Sarasota residents Jim and Helen Reed feasted on barbecue and enjoyed live music Nov. 23 during the annual Giving Hunger the Blues music festival, they said how much they loved the event’s change in scenery.

After decades in downtown Sarasota, the event was held at the Sarasota Polo Club in Lakewood Ranch for the first time.

“There’s more room to spread out,” Helen Reed said of the Lakewood Ranch venue.

Hearing such talk is good news for Sarasota Polo Club owner James Miller, who purchased the facility with his wife, Misdee Miller, in June 2018 from Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch.

Since that time, the Millers have been working to upgrade the 30-year-old facility by renovating the playing fields, sprucing up facilities and even converting an old closet in the announcer’s pavilion into a bar.

Although the Millers have been focused primarily on developing a successful polo operation, they said they also see greater

Bands such as Twinkle and Rock Soul Radio performed Nov 23 during the Giving Hunger the Blues Festival, held for the first time at the Sarasota Polo Club.

potential in the facility overall and envision hosting music or other events there.

“It would be nice to incorporate a music event,” Miller said. “We saw [hosting Giving Hunger the Blues] as an opportunity to test the waters.”

“It seemed like everybody had a great time,” he said. “I’m looking forward to building on this.”

The Sarasota Polo Club hosted the Pan American Ultimate Frisbee Championships on Nov. 3-8 and even has a wedding on its calendar. In early 2020, the club will host Ranch Nite Wednesdays, an evening social gathering with live music, cocktails, food trucks and a cornhole league. It is a collaboration between the Sarasota Polo Club and MVP Sports and Social and is sponsored by The Market at Main Street.

Miller said he’s exploring opportunities that can bring  much-needed revenue to the club.

He noted that it isn’t common to see a concert at a golf courses, and it’s the same for polo fields — he has to be careful with whatever events he allows on-site. The specialized turf must be meticulously maintained to withstand the pounding it gets from horse hooves and mallets each Sunday afternoon and during practices.

Holding a music festival in the spring, after polo season ends in late April, would make more sense because the fields will have ample time over the summer to recover.

Miller said logistics can be complicated in placing events at the 158-acre campus, such as where to park cars, for example. However, he’s already learned from events including Pan American and Giving Hunger the Blues.

“We’re looking at all sorts of things,” Miller said. “It’s going to be an experimentation at first. I’ll continue to figure out what that mix is and what makes the most sense for how to run the club.”

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