UMR Sports has nearly completed its six pickleball courts and four sand volleyball courts with baseball/softball fields on the way.
UMR Sports Founder Ryan Moore took a break on a sunny afternoon to admire six new pickleball courts that are nearly ready for play in eastern Manatee County.
Those courts are the first major step toward the completion of the 52-acre UMR Sports complex, which is an athletic academy that will be located at 151 Upper Manatee River Road. The site was once part of the 500-acre Moore’s Dairy Farm.
Moore said the courts are painted in blue and orange because those are the colors of the Florida Gulf Coast League, which is a softball league Moore runs that will eventually move to the campus when the fields are completed. The courts were constructed by Palmetto-based Stewart Tennis Courts & Fencing and are made of asphalt, which Moore says is easier on players’ knees, legs and hips because it is a softer surface.
“We asked them to spend a little bit more time on the preparation of the court system itself,” Moore said. “We've added some extra seals. They spent a lot of time curing the asphalt.”
The pickleball courts also feature turf areas for teams and spectator areas. A large screened structure that’s right next to the easternmost court will serve as a lounge for UMR members.
“We created that so if members wanted to come and get out of the sun, they could turn on the fan and have their lunch or whatever,” Moore said. “That way they could see the competition with nothing in front of them.”
Four sand volleyball courts featuring an additional 17 feet of sand behind end lines to allow for running serves are also part of the first phase of work at UMR. The courts will feature spectator areas, lights for nighttime play and space for advertisers. The courts were built by Sarasota-based Landscapes by Aaron and were designed to a standard that will allow him to bid for NCAA and National Junior College Athletic Association events, which is the goal for all of the complex’s facilities.
“I don't know if there's a plaza like this that has pickleball and sand volleyball together,” Moore said. “If we're going to be able to attract high school championships and college championships or even pro athletes, we want this to be a professional destination.”
Moore said he is working on price points for the memberships. Members will have the chance to work with Chandra Moore, who is Ryan Moore’s wife and a former professional tennis player and certified pickleball instructor who will be running the pickleball operation. Former professional beach volleyball player Bree Scarbrough will oversee volleyball.
The next phase of the campus will include the construction of a five-plex of baseball/softball fields on the back 30 acres of the property. They’ll have fences 220 feet from home plate, which will allow softball play for all ages and baseball for players up to the age of 12. A spectator structure will be built in the middle of the complex, which Moore said is going through the permitting process with Manatee County. He hopes to see construction start in 2023.
“There'll be five fields in a circle, so if you're a college recruiter or if you're a tournament director, they're built for speed,” Moore said. “So you literally could be in the middle, and the fans can watch all five games going at the same time.”
Moore said later plans include a softball stadium that will be used by the Florida Vibe, a professional team that currently plays its games at Bradenton Christian School. Plans also call for two regulation-size baseball fields and two fields that would be used for lacrosse and soccer.
Seeing the campus’ continued development on the land where he grew up is special to Moore. He said it is a tribute to his parents’ legacy and is special because the land is not being used for residential development.
“That honestly would be the easiest thing to do,” Moore said. “But when you look around our area, when you look at what's happening in Lakewood Ranch, and you look at what's happening in Parish, and now with Fort Hamer connection, there's nothing like this except for Premier (the Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch) to a certain degree. We thought that we could do something for the community, and help the youth and adults have somewhere to go, whether it's to play volleyball, baseball, softball or pickleball. We just wanted to bring this kind of excitement to the local community as our contribution to be good stewards of this land that we've had since 1956.”
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