LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The biggest patch of fields to host soccer tournaments in Manatee County is about to get competitive, stadium style.
The Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch has submitted construction plans to the county that show its intention to build a stadium that can hold thousands of soccer and football fans. It would be the first such facility at the 145-acre complex.
Planned for the nearest of the campus' 22 fields to its entry drive along Post Boulevard, the stadium will feature four sets of grandstands, two scoreboards, a press box and other amenities needed to host high-profile championship games. Potential users include soccer academies and the recently formed, Lakewood Ranch-based Major League Football.
The stadium was a factor in attracting the pro football league, which announced earlier this summer that it will hold its first training camp at Premier in February.
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"Certainly everyone at Major League Football is excited about the new stadium at the Premier Sports Complex," said Nick Athan, a spokesman for the league. "I could see where Major League Football would consider live game scrimmages and other special events inside the new stadium."
Officials with campus owner Schroeder-Manatee Ranch did not respond Monday to requests for comment on the construction schedule for the stadium or its construction costs. But field lessees are already planning ahead for events to feature in the facility.
Jim DiNobile, co-director of Tampa-based Chargers Soccer Club, said he is negotiating this week to bring Italian professional club AS Roma to the campus. Marquee headers like pro team appearances, as well as the club's annual 200-team Labor Day tournament, will be enhanced by having a stadium at the center of the action.
"That's what a higher-level professional team or
a higher-level event would like to have," DiNobile said.
Premier does have a few sections of bleachers at one of its fields that will accommodate a few hundred fans, DiNobile said. But what is planned for the stadium far exceeds that capacity. Construction drawings show that the new stadium will have more space for fans. The grandstands to be built on all sides of the stadium pitch contain 22 fan sections. Bleachers run seven to 10 rows deep.
The plans also show a ticketing booth, a concessions area and a multipurpose room built into the fully fenced stadium. Of highest importance, at least to one youth sports camp user at the campus, are the new bathrooms.
"Our wish has been for restroom facilities and perhaps some indoor facilities for indoor sports, meetings and camps," said Larry Jackson, the Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties franchisee for i9 Sports, a company that hosts youth sports camps around the nation. "If bathrooms are part of the design, that could be an improvement from the current Porta-Potties."
SMR's site and construction plans are under consideration by Manatee County planning officials. Construction permits for the stadium have not yet been issued, according to the county's permitting website.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.