Future upgrades at Premier Sports Campus could be a game-changer, as could other amenities
If Lakewood Ranch adults want to play recreational sports, the options at this point still are somewhat limited.
Chris McComas, who played college baseball and golf at the University of Tennessee, wants that to change.
The MVP Sports and Social co-founder and his wife, Jessi, are working with Schroeder-Manatee Ranch officials to figure out the best steps to take in terms of recreational sports.
His own company is affected by the lack of facilities to host events. MVP Sports, which McComas said has 60-65% of its participants living in Lakewood Ranch and 70% in East County overall, currently hosts just three sports in the East County area: indoor volleyball, which is played at the Lakewood Ranch YMCA; disc golf, which is held at Bob Gardner Community Park; and sand volleyball, which is held at Tom Bennett Park, where McComas sets up his own lights before each match.
Lakewood Ranch residents travel outside the area to participate in MVP’s other offerings, such as the Friday night bowling league, which competes at Bowlero Bradenton (formerly AMF Bradenton Lanes), on Cortez Road in Bradenton, and softball, which is played at Sarasota’s Fruitville Park. Kickball is held at Bradenton’s Montauk Point Crossing.
Much of the difficulty in finding space could be solved with the development of the Premier Sports Campus, now owned by Manatee County, into a multi-sport facility. Parks and Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker has said upgrades likely will include a swimming complex, baseball fields, pickleball and tennis courts and other amenities.
McComas said that space, now in the planning stage, would be a boon for the area, for all age groups. Even though McComas does not currently use any of Premier’s fields for MVP Sports, he said it is a possibility in the future, especially when his company launches an outdoor soccer league.
McComas currently is having discussions with the Lakewood Ranch YMCA about hosting an indoor soccer league.
“It’s exciting,” McComas said. “With Premier, all things are on the table. It’s a wonderful opportunity.”
In the meantime, McComas is moving forward to add adult activities. MVP will offer basketball in the winter, but a site has not yet been determined, although McComas said it will be in Lakewood Ranch.
Although McComas is confident his athletes would drive to participate in MVP’s offerings, he said it would be easier for many potential players to play closer to home.
He continues to talk to SMR officials about possible softball field and he said he has been impressed with SMR’s willingness to listen to his ideas.
“You cannot just plop softball fields in the middle of a residential neighborhood,” McComas said. “Games are loud and can go late. The lights are bright. People would get upset.”
McComas said he is hopeful that he will have something concrete to announce by early next year about new recreational sports opportunities.
“We’re always adding, but we have to get the numbers and the culture (to determine what to start next), with an emphasis on having fun.”