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East County Wednesday, Mar. 7, 2018 9 months ago

New Lakewood Ranch/Sarasota Elks Lodge set to open

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Final permits expected within the next week.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

Randy Volkart almost is available to head another committee for his beloved Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota Elks Lodge 2855.

But he isn't willing to sign off quite yet on his current project.

Volkart is chairman of the New Facility Committee for the Elks and has been a driving force behind the construction of the new $1.825 million lodge about to open on 6 acres of land at 4602 Lena Road, Bradenton.

Last week, Volkart stood in the new facility, with the kitchen wrapped in plastic, the bar covered with projective paper and the carpeting all installed. A few final permits were all that separated the Elks from opening the front door.

Elks Trustee Darrin Simone shows off two deep fat friers. The old lodge didn't have a kitchen.

Volkhart estimated the lodge would be open by March 11, but the permitted process is out of his hands. All the inspections are done, so it's a waiting process.

Volkart and Elks Trustee Darrin Simone pointed out the features that make the membership excited about moving into the lodge. Most of all, the lodge, at 6,800 square feet under air, is more than twice the size of its old, leased space just a couple hundred yards away at 4908 Lena Road. The new lodge also will have an 800-square-foot patio.

A ballroom that will seat more than 200 people will allow the Elks to host events that weren't possible in the smaller lodge. A commercial grade kitchen will serve the ballroom and bar.

"We had to have everything catered," Volkart said. "And one of our biggest issues was that our lodge just didn't hold enough people. We had to cut off tickets to events.

"And that kitchen is expensive. The hood alone was $30,000, but it was designed so if there are any issues, all the systems shut down."

The New Facility Committee formed in June of 2013 and began working to raise money for a new lodge. Volkart, Kathy Hogue, Jerry Ditty and Joe Jenny made up the committee. Trustees overseeing the project were Brett Davis, Joe Cooper and Frank Malatesta.

"Jerry (Ditty) and Brett (Davis) did more work than anyone," Volkart said. "And the membership support has been amazing."

When the lodge moved into its old Lena Road location in 2009, it had 125 members. Now it has 800 members. It needs the space.

"I'm enthusiastic," Volkhart said. "The building is gorgeous. It's exactly what we wanted."

Simone said the building came out exactly as planned. "I don't think we missed anything," Simone said. "This is something to be proud of."

When the final Certificate of Occupancy is delivered, Volkart can finally start looking for another task.

"I'll tell you when I'm done," he said.

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