The Pompano Trailhead features 12 lighted pickleball courts and other amenities.
| 12:50 p.m. July 13, 2022
Pickleball enthusiasts and cyclists now have another destination (or two) to visit following the grand opening of a new stop along Sarasota County’s Legacy Trail and the renovation of a north county park near University Parkway.
Last week, dignitaries ceremonially opened the Pompano Trailhead, not far from the Legacy Trail’s newly opened northern extension into downtown, featuring purpose-built pickleball courts and other amenities.
County officials also cut the ribbon this month on an updated Longwood Park that now includes six new purpose-built pickleball courts, along with new parking areas, refurbished tennis and basketball courts, new signage and repaved driveways.
Pompano Trailhead, 5.1 acres at 601 S. Pompano Ave., is the newest addition to Legacy Trail, which earlier this year was extended north all the way to Fruitville Road from Ashton Road. Riders can now take the former railroad route to Venice and in the future all the way to North Port. A segment of the North Port section of the trail could be open later this summer.
The centerpiece of the Pompano Trailhead is 12 lighted pickleball courts, along with a shaded pavilion, play space for children, a bike repair station and the new home of Sarasota County’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources department, built into an existing building at the site.
It’s the largest of the additions to the Legacy Trail, which was financed with a $65 million bond issue approved by voters in 2018.
"I’m almost speechless as I look around here today," said Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Director Nicole Rissler, adding that the site once was home to a Department of Motor Vehicles office.
County commissioners and Sarasota Mayor Erik Arroyo and Vice Mayor Kyle Battie attended the formal ribboncutting on July 8.
"I would really like to say that when I got elected eight years ago, I knew all about pickleball," County Commission Chair Al Maio said. "But unfortunately, when it first came up, I said, ‘What in the world is pickleball? What a name.'
"Well, it’s because of the pickleball lovers in this community and the county commissioners that this is all happening — because I would have never thought of it."
Maio credited Commissioner Mike Moran with keeping the issue of building more public courts front and center.
In fact, Moran spoke on July 5 at the Longwood Park ribboncutting, saying the sport was growing and the county was working to keep pace.
The Gulf Coast Community Foundation helped with the financing of the Pompano Trailhead with a donation of nearly $80,000, Rissler said.
Jon Thaxton, the senior vice president of the foundation, said the as a child living in Palmer Ranch in the early 1970s, exploring the wilderness and finding a way to the former Seminole Gulf Railway that became the Legacy Trail was one of his fondest memories.
"We’ve got a great start. We’ve connected Venice, Osprey, Laurel, Nokomis and now Sarasota," he said. "But we’ve still got to get to North Port. And after North Port, we’ve still got to get to the north county line, we need to go through the Newtown community."
Overpasses along Legacy Trail at Clark and Bee Ridge roads are also planned, but work isn’t expected to begin until early 2023.
Once the northern end of the Legacy Trail, Culverhouse Nature Park in Palmer Ranch is closed for updates, which will include bathroom construction and improved parking.