Besides the aquatic center, other amenities included for Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch are a pickleball and racket center and multipurpose soccer building.
Lakewood Ranch Lightning Coach Steve Lubrino receives emails everyday — sometimes more than once — from parents of children who want to join the swim team.
Each email becomes another name on the team’s waitlist, where Lubrino said each prospective swimmer waits an average of four to six months for a spot to open up. His team has grown from 75 to about 120 swimmers in the past six months.
A public pool in East County would not only allow him to accommodate a much larger team but also could give the Lightning a home pool, like most club teams have.
If Manatee County Commissioners decide to keep plans for a $13.9 million Premier Sports Complex aquatic center on the budget recommended by county staff, the Lightning could see a new pool in East County as soon as 2024. Staff members gave their first presentation of the proposed budget for fiscal year 2022 to the Manatee County Commission on June 9.
There will be more work sessions for commissioners to evaluate staff’s proposed budget, which was crafted with commissioner input, between now and the start of the 2022 fiscal year Oct. 1. The vote to approve a final budget usually takes place in September.
For the aquatic center, the county has planned a 25-yard pool with 10 lanes, which would include a shallow area for water fitness and swim lessons. Other planned aspects of the aquatic center include locker rooms with showers and restrooms, a water heating and cooling system, deck seating and shade structures.
If approved, design would likely start in October and take about one year. Construction would be planned to start in May 2023 and end in May 2024.
Local swimming coaches said an aquatic center in East County is necessary for the local swimming community. The lack of pool space in East County caused a conflict between the Lakewood Ranch Lightning and SRQ Tsunami Swim Team in November when Manatee County decided to have the two teams share John H. Marble Pool after the Lightning’s pool availability at Lakewood Ranch Country Club was reduced.
John H. Marble Pool is the easternmost public pool in Manatee County, located about three-quarters of a mile west of Lockwood Ridge Road.
In addition to helping parents and kids by cutting down their commute to practice, Lubrino said an aquatic center in East County would allow him to accommodate far more athletes on his team.
He said the pool could become a home base for the Lightning, which would allow the team to hold swim meets that would make money for the county. Ideally, he would like to hold a meet every other month.
“We’ve been around since 2004,” Lubrino said. “Maybe we could put up banners, or we could put up a plaque with all the records like all the other teams do.”
Lubrino said building an aquatic center in East County would help resolve the conflict between the Lightning and Tsunami. Tsunami Coach Ira Klein agreed, adding the right facility could host two different programs and high school teams. Klein said he has about 60 to 70 Lakewood Ranch-based kids enrolled in his program.
Like Lubrino, Klein said the right facility could be used for swim meets to earn the county money and provide economic impact for the community by filling up hotel space.
Other Premier amenities included on the proposed budget include a $4.89 million pickleball and racket center and a $6.46 million multipurpose soccer building. The planned library near Premier Sports Complex is already funded for $14.92 million and is scheduled for completion in June 2023.
The proposed budget also includes $759,500 for a 200-space parking lot and $560,000 to create an overall site plan for the 200-acre property that includes the existing Premier Sports Complex and future park and library.
Plans for the pickleball and racket center include up to 24 pickleball courts, with as many as 10 covered. The plan includes an administrative office that would be the center of registration for a membership-based racket center for fee-paying members. Construction would be scheduled for completion in August 2022.
The multipurpose soccer building would be used for meetings, registration, dining, training and medical treatment. Plans for the building include climate-controlled trailer restrooms, an emergency backup generator and parking lot improvements. Construction would be scheduled to start in October and finish in December 2023.
County staff said the building is necessary for Premier Sports Complex to compete with other sports tourism facilities in Florida, adding that teams at travel tournaments need space for storage and meetings.
“This project would fulfill the requests made by our clients that bring in large signature tournaments to our county that helps sustain tourism year-round,” the county’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan said. “These enhancements would help support the hospitality industry and appeal to residents since events also include local athletes. The project would also add an additional revenue stream for our operation.”
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