GoodSports proposal would bring fieldhouse, hotel to Lakewood Ranch

Principals leery of talking about project, saying much remains to be done

jajones1@bradenton.comOctober 3, 2012 

Sarasota-based GoodSports Enterprises LLC is in talks with Schroeder-Manatee Ranch to develop a 55,000-square-foot indoor multi-use facility and 115-room hotel with dormitory-style lodging at Lakewood Ranch.

The proposed facility would seem to be a natural fit with the 75-acre Premier Sports Campus and its 22 grass fields that have attracted 12 major sports events so far this year.

SMR officials have previously said they believe the Premier Sports Campus can have a $62 million economic impact on the Manatee-Sarasota area.

The parties involved in the GoodSports talks were cautious in their remarks Tuesday, when asked about the project. It is unclear from the GoodSports Enterprises website whether the limited corporation has any completed projects.

"There really isn't anything going on yet, other than we are in talks with them," said Lisa Barnott, spokeswoman for SMR. "A lot depends on economic development incentives and financing."

Steve Shulla, vice president of GoodSports Enterprises, confirmed his company is negotiating with SMR.

"We are in the planning, discussion, negotiation stage with Lakewood Ranch," Shulla said. "We would like to put a good sports facility there. We think there is a lot of synergy with Premier Sports and what we could bring."

Asked about possible economic incentives for the project, Sharon Hillstrom, executive director of the Manatee Economic Development Council, was even more reserved.

"I am not really in a position to comment today," Hillstrom said.

Still, some details of the project proposal are available on the GoodSports Enterprises website, which states that GoodSports also builds outdoor water parks.

"The GoodSports Village vision is to become America's first and foremost youth sports experience by creating state-of-the-art designed 'experience venues' that will be focused on the sports traveler and cater to their unique needs in the vast and growing youth sports market," according to the website.

The indoor multi-use facility or fieldhouse would include spaces for "basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, tennis, wrestling, fencing, cheerleading, martial arts, dance competitions and alternate use activities," the website states.

Those sports would complement what is offered outdoors at Premier Sports Campus: football, soccer, rugby, Ultimate, lacrosse and cross country.

Earlier this year, the Wichita Eagle reported that the Wichita, Kan., city council had voted to approve a 400-acre bond district there that would include a 53,000-square-foot sports fieldhouse built by GoodSport near the Kansas Speedway.

Wichita officials say the facility could be used to help attract major sporting events and new businesses to the area, according to the Wichita Eagle.

The development of the Nathan Benderson rowing facility on the Manatee-Sarasota county line, the Fort Hamer rowing training facility in East Manatee, IMG Sports in Bradenton, and Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch have all helped bring new sports tourism business to the area.

There have been a few disappointments along the way, too, including the DVA Sports minor league hockey arena at Lakewood Ranch. That project ran into financial trouble and ended in lengthy litigation and eventual demolition of the partially built arena.

Another disappointment was the proposed $110 million Springbok Academy and Spa, a proposed sports complex led in part by former Australian Open tennis champion Johan Kriek.

That project was announced during the worst of the Great Recession and the hoped-f0r project at Lakewood Ranch never materialized due to difficulties in lining up financing.

Unlike those projects, Premier Sports Campus has taken off, attracting everything from youth soccer players to star athletes from the NFL.

Earlier this year, Tim Mulqueen, director of sports at Lakewood Ranch, told members of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance that there is plenty of potential for growth.

"We have the potential to grow this into a bigger monster than it already is," Mulqueen said.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021 or tweet @jajones1

Bradenton Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service