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East County Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018 11 months ago

Manatee County thinks big at Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch

Visitor's Bureau plans $500,000 expansion of Premier improvements.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Manatee County’s plans to enhance Premier Sports Campus just got bigger.

Officials from the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau now expect to spend about $1.3 million to construct an additional building at Premier Sports Campus, up $500,000 from preliminary estimates. 

Bureau officials had estimated $800,000 for park improvements when Manatee County acquired Premier from Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch in December 2017 for $5.2 million.

Sean Walters, senior manager for the Bradenton Area Sports Commission, said the changes will better meet the needs of customers using Premier and create opportunities for additional revenue streams.

“It’s going to enhance the overall product at Premier,” Walters said.

The proposed 4,000-square-foot building will be located east of the main parking lot, just south of the northernmost fields. It will include an administrative office, meeting space, a trainer’s room, a medical room, concessions and men’s and women’s restrooms.

Walters said an increase in the building size, from 2,500 to 4,000 square feet, and the addition of shade awnings around three-fourths of the building account for the cost increase. The meeting room will be enlarged so it can be divided into two separate spaces for meetings or used as temporary locker rooms.

A separate medical room will allow trainers to deal with injuries in a private, air-conditioned setting, and another 700-square-foot space is planned to be rented to a trainer, who can work with athletes or provide exercise equipment to those who visit the campus.

Walters said the changes in design stem from further input from users. Having an air-conditioned meeting space will save customers the expense of renting large air-conditioned tents and make the venue more competitive with other venues nationally.

U.S. Soccer, for example, spent $150,000 on tent rentals for its events at Premier, Walters said. It also has held coaches and referee meetings at the Bradenton Area Convention Center and then shuttled them to Premier, which it no longer would have to do.

Doren James, the United States Australian Football League national tournament director, is looking for a venue for the league’s 2019 Australian Rules Football Championship and is considering Premier. He hosted an event at Premier at 2016 and is excited about the improvements that are coming. He said it will put Premier in the top 15% of venues that can accommodate 75% of the league’s needs.

James said Premier’s building will have Wi-Fi and streaming capabilities, which the league needs for its agreement with ESPN. The air-conditioned medical room also will allow the league to better address issues like heat stroke, a condition impacting players this season.

“The biggest differentiator for us is a lot of the amenities,” James said. “We’ve had tournaments where we have to bring everything in.”

Funding for the new building is proposed to come from tourism-tax dollars. The Tourism Development Council, an advisory board to the Manatee County Commission, will consider the change at its meeting in October. Manatee County commissioners ultimately would give final approval, likely at a meeting in November, Walters said.

“It makes sense (to use tourism dollars) because the events put heads in beds. It makes sense utilizing that funding for that,” Walters said.

Walters said construction could begin almost immediately after the approval and would take about six months to complete.

Walters said the Visitors Bureau will continue to talk with users to see what other improvements may be beneficial for attracting more or larger events.

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