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Plans scaled back for aquatic complex in Lakewood Ranch

While the Premier Park design had included three pools, Manatee County commissioners voted to remove the 25-meter pool to cut costs.

The current design for the Premier Racquet and Aquatic Complex. The 25-meter by 25-yard pool (3) is being removed from the plans.
The current design for the Premier Racquet and Aquatic Complex. The 25-meter by 25-yard pool (3) is being removed from the plans.
Courtesy image
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Plans for the Premier Park Racquet and Aquatic Complex are being sent back to the drawing board for a third time. 

On Dec.12, the Manatee County Commission voted unanimously to remove the 25-meter-by-25-yard pool from the plans. Plans for 24 pickleball courts, a 50-meter pool and a “learn-to-swim and therapy” pool remain.

What’s lost with the 25-meter-by-25-yard pool is a warm-up pool for swimmers to use during competitions, and a diving area with boards. 

“We didn’t see much traction when we had the diving well at G.T. Bray. It was filled in for a learn-to-swim pool,” said Molly White, the director of Sports and Leisure Services. 

Steve Lubrino coaches swimming at Lakewood Ranch High School and said he doesn't have a lot of divers on his team because they have no place to dive. He had a student move to the area from Indiana, and she was driving up to St. Petersburg for a diving well. 

"Manatee County definitely needs a dive well," Lubrino said. "We can't even offer it to kids, and it's another way for them to get to (the state meet) versus swimming."

The 25-meter-by-25-yard pool was the only pool included in the county’s original plans for the complex in 2021.

In July 2022, after local swimmers pointed out the area’s need for a 50-meter-by-25-yard pool that could accommodate training and tournaments, commissioners directed the staff to come back with a new design. 

The county administrator at the time, Scott Hopes, said it would cost over $770,000 to update the design to include a 50-meter-by-25-yard pool. 

Staff came back in April of this year with designs that included the original 25-meter-by-25-yard pool, a 50-meter-by-25-yard pool and a third “therapy pool.” But eight months later, staff has now deemed three pools too expensive to stay within the budget of $39 million. 

Tom Yarger, the division manager of Construction Services told commissioners that a “ballpark estimate” on a 25-meter-by-25-yard pool is $4.5 million, but that won’t be the only savings if it is cut. 

“Because of the three pools, we had a larger patronage to expect, so we had to look at expansion of the locker rooms and some of the other common areas to be able to do that,” Yarger said, “So part of what we’re going to do is use the design of the third pool to look at some of the other elements to reduce costs and reduce the size of some of our facilities.”

This is a rendering of what the 50-meter pool will look like.
Courtesy image

Mill Creek resident Derek DiPasquale’s 12-year-old daughter Ava DiPasquale is on the Sarasota Tsunami Swim Team and she practices five times a week. Derek DiPasquale has to drive her back and forth to Arlington Park in Sarasota for swimming practice and events, so he’s looking forward to having a 50-meter pool closer to home.

“It sounds like the community loses out (cutting the 25-by-25 pool), but as long as they build the big 50-meter pool, then the competitions still go on,” he said. “As long as that’s in there, we’re still happy. We can still get in there and practice long-course, Olympic-style, and they can run high-level meets at that pool.”

But Lubrino sees a problem with the 50-meter pool, too. 

"From what I can tell from the plans, there's no scoreboard, which means there's no clock, which means big-time colleges are not going to come down," he said. "If they want to make the money, they're going to have to get the colleges to want to come down here. Right now, they all go to Fort Lauderdale. Some go to Sarasota." 

DiPasquale’s only remaining concern is that his daughter is still swimming by the time the pool is built. Because a new design is needed, Yarger couldn’t say when the county will be breaking ground on the project. The plans, without revisions, are only 60% complete.

In 2021, the county estimated the aquatic center would be open by May of 2024. In 2022, they expected to break ground by Jan of 2024. In April, the estimated completion date was June 2026. 

Yarger could only say that it would take about 18 months to finish the project from when they break ground. 

While the idea of completing the pickleball courts before the pools was bounced around during the discussions, the current plan is to build and open the complex as one. 

Yarger noted that the possibility of phases could come up while revising the plans, but it’s problematic that the courts and pools share the same site. Granting access to the pickleball courts while the pools are still under construction could cause issues for the county as far as parking and liability. 

Commissioner Ray Turner has been asking staff to “step on the gas” with this project since August. He didn’t like the idea of phasing the project based on its cost. 

“It’s a larger project, and the cost of materials just keeps on going up. So from that aspect, from a more global perspective and trying to control taxpayer dollars, the pool is much more expensive,” Turner said. “That’s the one we’ve got to keep moving.” 



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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