MANATEE -- Melton Little's plan to transform a dilapidated eyesore in the southwest part of Manatee County into a robust athletic center was met with raving approval Wednesday night at a meet-and-greet session with the newly formed board of directors for the South Park Athletic Center.
Little's plan would convert the former Manatee Technical College campus on 34th Street West in Bradenton into an indoor athletic facility, which would include a track, swimming pool and outdoor dog park.
Residents heard more about the plan and met the board of directors as the project continues to work its way through the process to becoming reality.
"I have a passion for this project," Little told the 50 or so people gathered inside Anna Maria Oyster Bar Landside. "This project is re
With a board of directors set up, the next step is to hire a firm to conduct a feasibility and economic impact study, Little said. He's talking to a firm in Clearwater he may bring on to do the study.
Attendees, including Dawn and Bob Stanhope, said they'd like to see something come into the area since the former MTC campus has deteriorated quickly after the school moved to State Road 70 in 2013.
Dawn Stanhope is president of Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County, and she and her husband live in a development that abuts the property.
"There is no activity right now," Bob said.
"The plan has a lot of versatility," Dawn said.
The plan may run up against a potential snag down the road. The property is owned by the Manatee County School District, which may want to hold onto the property for future use as an elementary and middle school or as an addition to Bayshore High School to deal with growth.
During a Manatee County School Board workshop Wednesday, members discussed what to do with the property. Staff members presented the board with a host of options and laid out pros and cons for each.
District staff members from capital projects leaned to the district holding onto the site since there are no other district-owned sites in the area. With the potential for more than 9,000 new homes in the west part of the county -- between the Lake Flores development and the Long Bar Pointe development -- the district may want to build a new school there.
Board member Dave Miner seemed to be on board with Little's plan, asking district staff to find out what hurdles there are to move forward with it.
"My gut says there needs to be some attraction like South Park," he said.
Board Chairman Bob Gause counseled restraint, saying if the district sold the property, it wouldn't be able to get it back.
"This sounds harsh, but school districts are not in the business of providing community parks," Gause said. "When you look at what our primary mission is, it's to provide facility and personnel to educate students."
No decision was made on what will be done with the site, but board members generally agreed existing campus buildings should be demolished because it was becoming a maintenance and safety hazard.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.