EAST MANATEE — As Major League Baseball heads toward the playoffs, the national pastime is also blossoming in East Manatee.
The Strike Zone, a $2 million sports complex highlighted by nine arm-style indoor pitching machines and myriad other recreation-oriented attractions, recently opened in a 16,500-square-foot facility at 5028 Lena Road in Creekwood Corporate Park. The facility is off State Road 70, just east of Interstate 75.
Another baseball facility, C&H Baseball, a $1.5 million complex featuring six indoor batting cages, an infield practice area with artificial turf, training exercises, weight lifting and workout regimens, is set to open in three to four weeks in a 17,000-square-foot space at 10615 Technology Drive, off Lakewood Ranch Boulevard between S.R. 70 and State Road 64.
Duane and Lisa Burns own The Strike Zone building and co-own the business with former minor leaguer Ted Rose. The Strike Zone has a simulated golf experience; a trampoline basketball game called Jump Shop, where competitors jump and shoot over each other in a roughly 8-foot-by-8-foot enclosed area; an arcade with foosball and other games; and a snack bar.
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Baseball is a key focus at C&H, with strength and agility training, said operations manager Torrey Spears.
“It’s safe to say we are going to focus on strength and fitness and agility, and we are more for the athlete than for the recreational user,” Spears said.
The Strike Zone, like C&H Baseball, also has a fitness room for speed and agility training, Duane Burns said.
“Lisa and I wanted to create a place where kids can get together and be active,” said Burns, who also owns the local A/C Warehouse.
Sharing a batting cage with others as many times as you want during a visit at The Strike Zone will cost you $20, Burns said.
“You get about four minutes to hit and then someone else gets a turn,” Burns said.
A monthly hitting membership at The Strike Zone is $89.
C&H Baseball has yet to work out batting cage prices, Spears said.
“We will probably have a membership and a recreational rate sheet,” Spears added.
The Strike Zone’s two computerized golf simulators cost $20 for a round on any of the world’s famous golf courses.
The user enters a mesh-lined tunnel with a movie projector screen in front of them.
“You place a golf ball on artificial grass and hit it at the green shown on the screen 10 feet from you,” Burns said. “The ball passes through two lasers which will calculate the force at which you hit the ball.”
The ball drops somewhere on the course depending on the force.
Burns also created a “fun cage” where baseballs are pitched at 40 mph to the batter who can whack them at toy houses, cars and other objects.
“The name of the game is to see what you can break, which people of all ages seem to love,” Burns said.
Users can actually bounce off the walls in Jump Shot, Burns added.
“It’s a five-minute game for two players only,” Burns said of Jump Shot.
One fan of Jump Shot is Caitlyn Ralston, 13, a Braden River Middle School student.
“It’s a self-contained trampoline, one-on-one game where you can bounce off the walls,” said Chris Ralston, Caitlyn’s father.
Ralston said his entire family likes The Strike Zone.
“My son, Conner, who is 10, and plays in the Braden River Little League, enjoys taking lessons from Mr. Rose,” Ralston said.
“In Florida, with the rain and hot sun, you love a completely air-conditioned facility,” Ralston added. “The batting machines are new so they are smooth and quiet. It’s been fun for the whole family.”
The Strike Zone has a second floor parent lounge and observation deck with three projection screen TVs and WiFi. A liquor license is on the way, Burns said.
Hours of operation at the Strike Zone are 3-10 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 12:30-10 p.m. Wednesday; 9-9 Saturday; and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday. A grand opening is set for Oct. 2.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.