Though subject to change, the plan gives a general vision for the county park in Lakewood Ranch.
| 10:40 a.m. January 27, 2021
Like the pieces of a puzzle, the plans for expansion at Premier Sports Campus are beginning to take shape.
This puzzle, however, has multiple paths to completion.
Manatee County's staff has assembled its first draft of a general development plan for the expansion, a sort of concept plan for the property that staff members hope will encourage more public input in the planning of the park and give the public, the Planning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners the chance to consider the proposed amenities and their general locations.
The Premier Sports Campus and its planned expansion are located on land that is currently zoned agriculture, according to Manatee County Deputy Administrator John Osborne. Although Construction Services Manager Tom Yarger said all of the amenities planned for Premier are compatible with the agriculture land use, the ongoing proposal to rezone to Planned Development Public Interest would be more consistent with the intended uses and ensure the land is always used in the public’s interest. The proposed rezone also gives county's staff the chance to put together a general development plan.
The county’s general development plan for the Premier expansion, which is still being completed and will almost certainly change before it is presented to commissioners and the public, is not a detailed engineering site plan. Osborne and Yarger said each amenity requires a master plan of its own, which will be more specific and presented individually during future Capital Improvement Plan discussions, a process which occurs annually.
The general development plan is necessary to ensure all the planned amenities, there are 18 in this case, can fit on the given parcel of land. For example, stakeholders have expressed a desire for four baseball/softball fields. Therefore, the plan shows four dual-use fields.
“So the general development plan is a shopping bag,” Yarger said. “Doing shopping, you put a bunch of stuff in the bag. You don't know where it's going. You just want to make sure it fits in the bag. That’s where we are. We're making sure everything fits.”
Determining a general location is another important aspect of the general development plan, according to Yarger. The library, for example, is thought to be a high-use amenity. That means it should be placed near the corner of two easy access points, such as Rangeland Parkway and Uihlein Road.
The baseball/softball fields, on the other hand, are shown on the general development plan in a square near the center of the site because of how much space they occupy. The aquatic facility, gymnasium, volleyball courts, BMX track and similar recreational facilities are located nearby.
Yarger said each amenity has a main access point, meaning the Parks & Natural Resources Department can more easily secure the adjacent facilities. That could come in handy, for example, when a Little League needs to reserve all four baseball/softball fields at once. It also allows them to build a parking facility that is near the parks and recreation hub without locating it next to Rangeland Parkway.
The event lawn, meanwhile, is shown to the north of existing soccer fields at Premier Sports Campus. As long as the fields aren’t being used for league play or another sporting event, they can serve as an overflow section for the event lawn, one where people have plenty of space for people to plant lawn chairs and blankets.
Yarger said the general development plan is used to plan buffers, including trails, stormwater ponds and green space, and place them in between active-use amenities such as tennis courts and inactive-use amenities such as dog parks. This could mean a trail leading to the dog park, with ponds surrounding the trail to provide an enjoyable walk for dog owners.
Yarger said many different departments and people have had their say in creating the general development plan, including the Convention & Visitors Bureau, Parks & Natural Resources, county administration, county commissioners and the public. From there, the Property Management Department takes everyone’s desires into account and draws the plan with the help of a consultant, Stantec, in this case.
Stantec’s role was to help with the land planning process. County staff members told Stantec’s land planners what amenities they wanted shown on the plan, how close certain amenities should be in relation to other amenities and what the plan is for the site. Then, Stantec drew a plan that fits the county staff’s requests and is consistent with the county’s land development code.
The next step in finalizing the general development plan is reviewing 22 pages of comments, which includes topics from stormwater ponds to topography. The comments come from entities such as Building & Development Services, the Public Works Department and the Parks & Natural Resources Department.
Once the comments have been addressed, the plan will be ready for presentation to the county commissioners. Yarger estimated it will take about a month to a month and a half to finish reviewing comments and decide if any major changes are necessary to the plan, at which point he will have a better idea when the plan could be presented to county commissioners.
Yarger estimated the expansion will take about 10 years. Construction will be phased to match up with funding as it becomes available. This also allows the county's staff some flexibility going forward, because the general development plan is more of a guideline than a concrete plan.
“Let's just say in the next five years, volleyball becomes the thing that everybody wants to do, and nobody wants to swim anymore,” Yarger said. “That's the beauty of a general development plan. We show that this amenity can go on there, and we (can still) get approval for that amenity.”