Athletic fields

New parks, sports fields a priority in Sarasota County | Sarasota


In April, the county parks department unveiled a plan to overhaul many of the county’s sports complexes with the aim of revamping sports tourism in the region.

He is also looking to build new parks.

It’s been about 25 years since the county built the last large-scale park, and now it is considering four new locations for sports complexes and three for destination playgrounds.

New sports complexes are being considered in East County in the Hi Hat Ranch area, in Central County near State Road 681, and in South County near the Wellen Park area. North County would see a new complex as part of a proposed $ 56 million project at 17th Street Regional Park.

The Central, Southern, and Eastern County locations have the potential to be developed as private and / or municipal partnerships with funding sources such as park impact fees, county surcharge , naming opportunities and a referendum on the park tax.

The 17th Street park will be designed in two phases. The first, estimated at $ 35 million, will involve the design and construction of facilities on former utility land. Phase two, estimated at $ 21 million, would include, among other things, new dog parks and multi-use grounds.

Director of Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Nicole Rissler said the county has about $ 10 million in impact fees, about $ 500,000 in surtax funds and $ 2.5 million in estimated revenue. from the sale of a property at Tuttle Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way. put towards the park.

RELATED: County Considering Dedicated Sports Tourism Funding

This still leaves a funding gap of $ 20-23 million for the first phase of the project. However, Commission Chairman Al Maio said the county should not back down from the cost, as the benefits will outweigh the initial price.

“We’re going to eat these parks one piece at a time, just like you would eat an elephant,” he said. “We’re going to eat this step by step, because these are big, important projects. ”

When selecting a location for potential destination playgrounds, several key elements were considered including features, potential themes, parking, washrooms, pavilions, and landscaping.

County staff have settled into three sites spread across the county based on geography and future growth: one in the future 17th Street Regional Park, another in the Knight Trail / Pinelands area, and the last in the Tuscano Park site or in the Wellen Park area.

Rissler said the 17th Street park would be designed and built first as part of the regional park construction. The other two would be developed as funding becomes available.

The initial concept planning for Wellen Park lists an indoor installation as a future possibility.

Commissioner Christian Ziegler said he supported a destination playground in the county, but expressed concern that if three were pursued, the facilities would be a small-scale version of the original plans.

Instead, he proposed to create a giant facility, similar to Common Ground Park in Lakeland, that could attract families from out of the county.

“I think it’s important to consolidate it because people will be driving for a massive installation, if we do it in the county,” he said. “Anything we can do to really make sure that when we build it it’s dynamic and it’s not just another playing field.”

The destination park would then, Ziegler said, be a break for parents whose children compete in one of the county’s destination sports complexes.

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