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East County Monday, Sep. 27, 2021 3 months ago

New volleyball complex close to opening in Lakewood Ranch's Waterside Place

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155 dump trucks deliver the goods in creating Waterside volleyball courts in Lakewood Ranch.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

The pressure was on Chris McComas, and not so much the sand on which he was jumping.

Along with his wife, Jessi, Chris McComas is the owner of MVP Sports and Social that provides the Sarasota and Manatee counties area with plenty of social and sports activities.

McComas also develops programming for Lakewood Ranch Community Activities.

So when Schroeder-Manatee Ranch began building a six-court sand volleyball complex at its Waterside Place restaurant and entertainment hub in Lakewood Ranch, why not have an expert design the facility?

McComas took the job seriously.

Of course, certain parts of that task were defined. The courts are approximately 60 feet long by 30 feet wide. The nets are 32 feet apart. Netting would be needed to keep spikes and stray shots out of the lake that surrounds the courts.

The sand? That was another story.

 Serious sand volleyball players like soft sand because they often are diving for shots.

"But not all of us are finely tuned athletes," McComas said. "You can call any old sand place and they will say we have 'beach sand.' But that soft sand is for elite players. For a novice, the legs might not be what they used to be. You need compaction so you can run."

MVP Sports and Social currently has 1,400 people competing in all activities and sports. Of those, 600 play sand volleyball. Those players compete and rate from those who are learning the game to the most elite players. McComas sees it all. He knew he couldn't call any old sand place.

He began driving to sand mines around Florida, driving more than two hours a couple of times. He was looking for that perfect combination of soft and compact sand. He would feel the sand. No good.

The search went on for months.

He finally heard of some promising sand. He ordered a truck load (18 yards of sand) to be delivered. He needed to test it out himself.

Chris McComas designed the volleyball complex at Waterside Place in Lakewood Ranch.

Again, no good.

He finally heard of another sand that was promising. Another truck load, this time from the Witherspoon Mine in Moore Haven was delivered. 

McComas could feel a little pressure. Bringing in a truck load of sand isn't cheap. He buried his feet in the sand to feel its playability.

"I was thinking, 'Please be right,'" he said.

It was the real deal, at least in terms of trying to find the right mix for multiple levels.

One-hundred-and-fifty-five dump trucks delivered 3,800 tons of sand to the site. With the posts planted, the nets ready to hang and the sand dumped 18-inches deep throughout, the complex is ready for its anticipated early in October.

McComas said the lighting might not be in place for any scheduled night activity, but day action should be cleared to go.

He said it will be a boon for the area.

"This always was a big deal," McComas said. "Here's why — basically we are the region's largest network of sand volleyball players of all abilities. We have 600 players and we are growing. We've been held back (by a lack of courts)."

MVP Sports and Social has held leagues at the Adventure Park and Summerfield Park in Lakewood Ranch and at Tom Bennett Park and Caddy's in Bradenton. But that amounts to five courts at four sites. Now they will have six courts all at the same place.

"We can do a lot more concurrent programming," said Keith Pandeloglou, the executive director of Lakewood Ranch Community Activities. "With one court, you can't do that. We are going to run multiple programs."

Pandeloglou said the courts will be considered a community park and will be accessible to the public when not being used for regular programming.

"This is another great amenity in Lakewood Ranch," Pandeloglou said.

"This is huge for the community," McComas said. "I've been sold out (in his volleyball leagues) since 2018.

McComas said he sent out an email Aug. 31 alerting people that volleyball league signups were beginning. Within 72 hours, he had 40 teams sign up for play. In the past, he couldn't have accepted more than 32 teams.

He said it also is a huge bonus that Waterside Place's restaurants and pubs are a short walk away.

"People are excited to come to this location," he said. "Anyone can walk across the bridge and have a beer."

Monaca Onstad of Lakewood Ranch Communities said the courts add to the Waterside Place identity.

"There has long been a demand for lighted sand volleyball courts," she said. "These courts are an important aspect of the overall experience that we are creating at Waterside Place — a more active nightlife in Lakewood Ranch."

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