LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Growing membership at the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club has prompted Schroeder-Manatee Ranch to expand the club's athletic center and Royal Lakes Golf Course.
The club will also add a double-ended driving range and practice area.
The main reason that SMR, Lakewood Ranch's developer, is expanding the country club is to offer more amenities to Lakewood Ranch residents and to meet the needs of an increasing number of members, says SMR Chief Executive Officer Rex Jensen.
"While other clubs have been losing members, we have not," Jensen said.
The existing 11,000-square-foot fitness center will be expanded by 6,900 square feet.
Pickleball courts will also be installed to divide tennis and pickleball players who often get in each other's way.
"Giving pickleball players their own space to play is certainly going to be a big asset for them," said Wayne
Piazza, country club general manager. "Pickleball and tennis players hitting in the same area close by is like having skiers and snowboarders on the same slope."
The Royal Lakes Golf Course will add a driving range and a 10,000- to 12,000-square-foot clubhouse with a golf shop, casual restaurant and paved parking lot.
To determine what the country club needed, officials distributed an extensive survey to club members.
"The type of clubhouse that we're doing is responsive of the survey we took," Jensen said. Members "wanted something that is focused around casual dining and will take advantage of views over the golf course."
Planning for all three projects will start immediately. Jensen predicts the driving range, designed by golf architect Rick Robbins, will be started first and could be done by fall 2014. Construction on the driving range will begin as soon as the county approves permits. The athletic center could be done in the next 18 months and the clubhouse is about two years away.
The expansion will bring about 36 jobs to Lakewood Ranch, but Jensen said there could be opportunities for more positions as the project moves along.
The entire plan will cost several million dollars, but an exact number has not yet been calculated.
"It's a win-win for everybody around," Piazza said. "Our members are really going to love what we've got coming to them."
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee County reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @sabrinarocco.