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Aquatics complex at Premier in Lakewood Ranch could be long wait

County director of parks and natural resources says an aquatics complex isn't high on the priority list.

Elliott Falcione said Premier Sports Campus could pursue a naming rights deal for its stadium in the future.
Elliott Falcione said Premier Sports Campus could pursue a naming rights deal for its stadium in the future.
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As plans take shape for the 238 acres Manatee County purchased since December, 2017 in Lakewood Ranch, which includes Premier Sports Campus, it appears local residents will be waiting quite some time for a promised aquatics complex.

In his address during the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance's annual Economic Development Road Show Tour Aug. 2,  Charlie Hunsicker said the aquatics complex is likely to be the last improvement scheduled for the land, at least among the ideas currently being considered by the county.

Hunsicker, Manatee County's director of parks and natural resources, said the aquatics complex appears to be the least needed of the improvements.

"Everybody in Lakewood Ranch has got a pool in their backyard," Hunsicker said. "But I think we will see it within a decade."

Manatee County bought Premier Sports Campus in December, 2017, along with 36 acres immediately north of Premier. It did so with an agreement with seller Schroeder-Manatee Ranch to build an aquatics complex on the land.

The county added 74.5 acres in September, 2018. Last September, county officials said the newest purchase could be the site of park amenities and government service buildings.

Besides talking about the aquatics complex, Hunsicker said the developing master plan for the site includes an enclosed pavilion.

"We want to have a festival atmosphere," Hunsicker said of a pavilion which will be able to host concerts along with being a place where people could escape the sun for outdoor events at any time of the year. He said a stage would face to the north, where the county owns property for a future high school, and away from any neighborhoods.

Hunsicker said a racquet complex, which will include pickleball courts, will be among the first projects. A library is planned for the future intersection of Rangeland and Uihlein roads.

John Osborne, Manatee County's deputy county administrator, also spoke at the Road Show's stop at Premier Sports Complex. He said a new library was a must for the area because the county's libraries have seen amazing usage and the Lakewood Ranch area is without one.

"It is amazing how our libraries have grown," he said. "And three quarters of our growth in the county is in Lakewood Ranch."

More soccer fields also are a priority for the site.

Hunsicker stressed the plans are still just a concept and he said more roundtable discussions will be announced to get more feedback from the community. He said the county would like to finalize a master plan for the site in the next few months.

One of the sticking points is that the staff required by such projects must be paid by property taxes.

"Our staff has to catch up with our imagination," he said.


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