LAKEWOOD RANCH -- For the past year, Sarasota-based GoodSports Enterprises LLC and Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, the developer of Lakewood Ranch, have been in talks about building a 55,000-square-foot indoor multi-use facility and 115-room hotel with dormitory-style lodging at Lakewood Ranch.
Though nothing has been finalized and talks remain in the preliminary stages, the potential of an agreement could result in a significant economic boom for the Manatee area.
"It's another service of sports we can become known for in the community," said Rex Jensen, chief executive officer and president of SMR.
GoodSports Enterprises approached SMR with the
possibility of building the fieldhouse, which would provide basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, tennis, wrestling, fencing, cheerleading, martial arts, dance competitions and alternate use activities. The company is a subsidiary of Focus Hospitality Service, which is owned by Jerald Good. Good has developed a chain of more than 20 hotels in the Midwest and is expanding into joining hotels with indoor sports facilities.
"It uses events to bring people to a community and stay in a community for weekends," said Steve Shulla, vice president of GoodSports.
The indoor facility would complement the 75-acre Premier Sports Campus and its 22 grass fields. The campus hosted a soccer tournament this past Labor Day that brought 19,000 to the area and generated more than $13 million in economic impact, according to Lakewood Ranch officials.
"There is a bid demand for those kind of facilities," said Nick Gandy, director of communications for the Florida Sports Foundation, the official sports promotion and development organization for Florida. "They can be used to recruit events outside the area."
GoodSports plans to build 25 locations around the country, Schulla said. The potential fieldhouse would be located just east of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard near State Road 70, near where a minor league hockey arena was once envisioned.
An indoor-outdoor combination would drive significant traffic to the area.
"Sports tourism has shown it remains strong when other tourism numbers have declined or fallen flat," Gandy said. "With an indoor facility, people from up north would want to come down and get away. They might want to come down early and have some vacation time."
Financing and economic incentives are two major items delaying the agreement.
"I'm not going to sign anything unless I'm sure there is funding," Jensen said.
The scenario, however, makes sense for both parties.
"There's not a whole lot of facilities for indoor events in the area," Schulla said.
"It fed right into their business line and their vision," said Brian Kennelly, president of Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty.
Jensen previously said he would like to make the Premier Sports Campus ready to accommodate national and internationally televised events.
"(GoodSports) will bring another thing to televise," he said.
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams