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Courts of Dreams

By John R. Embree, USPTA CEO

For those of you who are movie buffs, you recall the classic film, “Field of Dreams” with Kevin Costner. From it came one of the iconic phrases that is now part of our everyday lexicon: “build it and they will come.” Clearly in the case of Lake Nona, that is indeed what is happening.

According to Tavistock, Lake Nona is now the fourth fastest growing community in the United States. With the USTA National Campus serving as a quasi “anchor tenant” to a sports and innovation hub, the growth that is occurring in the area is truly mindboggling. As a result, I thought it would be interesting for you, especially those who have yet to visit us, to get a glimpse of the projects that are in progress.

#1 Adjacent to the USTA National Campus is the construction of a 300 room, five-star resort hotel. This performance hotel will cater specifically to the athlete and their needs during competition. As part of this project, a fifteen-acre crystal lagoon is also being developed that will be stunning! Please see the renderings that accompany this article. And, right across the street from our HQ, retention pools are being built in order to support the infrastructure of that crystal lagoon.
By the way, there will be a total 1,300 hotel rooms on-line in the Lake Nona area by the end of 2021.

#2 Just to the south of the USTA Florida building (our neighbor), the Lake Nona Academy is about to break ground for opening in September 2021. For kids K-12, this private school will enroll up to 1,500 children when it is fully occupied. And they will be building a variety of athletic fields just to the west of USTA FL and USPTA buildings.

#3 The USTA has worked out a land swap with Tavistock for 5 acres of property right next to our parking lot. Tentative plans call for a multi-sport facility to be constructed that could include an additional indoor building along with much needed office space with flexibility to host a myriad of events.

#4 The KPMG Worldwide Learning and Innovation Center has been under construction for the better part of a year already. This monster 800,000 sq. foot facility on 55+ acres at a projected cost of $400 million is located ½ mile from the National Campus and will include an upscale restaurant and hotel facilities. KPMG is the fourth largest accounting and financial services company in the world. When completed at the end of this year, KPMG will bring in 1,000 visitors per week for training. Over 330 jobs will be created when the doors open.

#5 Amazon opened a fulfillment center just on the outskirts of Lake Nona by the airport. 1,500 full time jobs were established in an 850,000 sq. ft. facility.

#6 Johnson and Johnson just opened in late January their state of the art, Human Performance Institute in Medical City near the Town Center. I have not seen it yet, but I hear it is impressive. It boasts 50,000 sq. feet of corporate wellness and personal development.

#7 Speaking of the Town Center, Phase II of the buildout has begun. Eventually, when Phase III is completed, there will be 3.8 million square feet of entertainment, restaurants, retail, etc. But for now, Phase II is intended to add 1 million sq. ft. to the existing space and is scheduled for opening late in 2021. This will be such an exciting hub for the community to congregate, socialize, shop, dine and relax. Included in the plans is a 16-story upscale hotel (see the rendering enclosed).

#8 An interesting concept has just opened right outside the Town Center called Boxi Park. Using recycled ocean-going containers, Boxi Park is home to a doggie park, beach volleyball, plus the opportunity to sample different foods (lobster rolls, hamburgers, tacos, etc.) prepared in these containers/kitchens. People will be able to stroll around the park and enjoy a variety of cuisine.

When the USPTA decided to relocate to Lake Nona, none of this was in the works. No one had any idea that so much would be developed around us. I have been living here now for a little less than 2.5 years and I continue to be amazed at our good fortune for being here, both personally and professionally. It is my firm belief that had the USPTA not made this bold move to leave Houston, it would have been the biggest mistake in the history of our association.

As I write this, the NCAA Division I Team and Individual Championships are just around the corner in mid-May. The top eight Men’s and Women’s teams will compete over 10 days to seek that elusive NCAA title. The USPTA, in conjunction with USTA Player Development, will be hosting 2 mornings of education for the coaches who will be attending. And it never would have happened had we not been collaborating with USTA to do something different around this event. This is just one example of the many joint events we have been doing with the USTA: more to come.

Yes, the Field of Dreams in Iowa is now the Courts of Dreams in Lake Nona. Until you come here, it is hard to fathom what is happening. Once you see it, you will understand why this is the tennis epicenter in the USA. We are fortunate to be here at the very beginning of what is becoming a spectacular community- it already is!

If you build it, they will come... .and they are!
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