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East County Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010 7 years ago

Jensen: sports complex 'a go'

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder Manatee Ranch is moving forward with plans to construct an amateur sports complex in the heart of the community.

“It’s full-steam ahead, and everyone loves the idea,” SMR President and CEO Rex Jensen said. “It’s a go.”

The first phase of the project, which will consist of a series of fields that can be used for sports such as soccer and lacrosse, will cost about $1.8 million.

Construction will start early next year and take three to four months to complete. The facility, which likely will include locker rooms, restrooms, paved driveways and grass parking, will be reminiscent of the Sarasota Polo Club, Jensen said.

“It’s not going to be very elaborate, but for the first time, we’ll have a series of continuous fields that are dedicated to amateur sports,” Jensen said. “That’s something the community doesn’t have right now.”

Currently, sports teams can rent fields from the county but must spread tournaments over several locations. There are no facilities specifically intended for hosting large tournaments in one spot, Jensen said.

The project’s first phase, he said, should be partially operational by mid-2011 and fully operational in 2012.

“We’ll see if we can do that,” Jensen said.

Eventually, baseball and softball fields and other amenities would be added.

Jensen said he is still working on how to finance the project.

“We’re still finalizing our business plan for it,” he said. “The concept is something we have an intuitive faith in.”

Although no plans are definite, Jensen said he probably would hire someone to run the facility on a contract basis at first and possibly bring operations in-house at a later time.

SMR first announced it was considering building an amateur sports complex on land bordering the Lakewood Ranch Post Office in March. The land being used for the project roughly forms an upside down “L” shape, stretching from immediately north of the post office to east of Post Boulevard and south to State Road 70.

Jensen said SMR developed the idea for the project after beginning negotiations with Corvus International, Iowa Sports Management and Johan Kriek Tennis for Springbok Sports Club and Academy, a $110 million sports, spa and training complex in the easternmost part of Lakewood Ranch. The entities had talked about such an endeavor, but the idea was not pursued until SMR announced its intentions earlier this year.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

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