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CBP Launches Border Wait Time App

Posted: December 22nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Athlete & Artist Visas, Employer & Student Visas, Immigration Reform, Investor Visas, National News, Sarasota Immigrants | No Comments »


According to their government website, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently launched the Border Wait Time app making it easier for travelers to plan their trip across the border. The app provides estimated wait times and open lane status at land ports of entry allowing travelers to make an informed decision of where and when to cross the border. Wait times for pedestrian and passenger and commercial vehicle crossings are broken down by lane type (standard, SENTRI, NEXUS, FAST, Ready Lane, etc.). Travelers can download the app for free from Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

“CBP continues to deploy technology that enhances the travel experience at all of our ports of entry,” said Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. “The launch of this app will provide travelers crossing the land border with more information when and where they need it.”

The app is a one-stop shop for cross border travel. Travelers can locate the three ports of entry closest to their location and then map the best route to the crossing of their choice. For example, the app allows travelers in the Buffalo, New York area to compare wait times at the Peace Bridge, Rainbow Bridge and Lewiston Queenston Bridge and will then direct them to whichever crossing they chose.

The app was developed by CBP and does not require individuals to register or provide any personal information. CBP does not store or have access to any information regarding travelers using the app.

The Border Wait Time app is just one example of CBP’s effort to create a traveler-friendly processing environment. CBP has deployed Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks to more than 25 airports, including most recently at preclearance locations in Edmonton, Canada and Aruba. Much like APC, CBP launched Mobile Passport Control, the first authorized app to expedite a traveler’s entry into the United States, at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport this summer. CBP has also enrolled more than three million travelers in trusted traveler programs such as Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI. These programs allow CBP officers to process travelers safely and efficiently while enhancing security and reducing operational costs.

Source: Click here for the original article.

Talented German Artist Shares Her Work With Jaensch Immigration Law Firm

Posted: May 8th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Athlete & Artist Visas, Jaensch Immigration Law Firm | Tags: , | No Comments »

EBBA Kaynak, accomplished German sculpture artist, has been creating art based on the theme of “in-between” for years.  When our firm helped one of her friends she heard about us and decided to get in touch.

Here below is a short description of her story with images of her work interspersed.  Anyone interested can visit her website to learn more.

My life surely has quite a lot do do with the big question, where do I belong to… where is my “Heimat”?

My grandfather was a Sudet German lawyer in Reichenberg, the German part of former Chechoslovakia. After World War II all Germans were thrown out of that country, and my family moved to the soft hilly southwest of Germany. Although the landsape was similar to their beloved former home, the mentality of the Svabians was strange for them. My father, coming from Alsace, the German region of France met my mother in the Black Forest. Their love didn’t last long, so I grew up with my “Sudet German” family.

Cheurbin Chrysolith

Growing up I always felt different from the others. In school I studied languages and mastered English, French and Latin. I went on to study Art in the Academy in Stuttgart, and learned Greek as well.  During my summers at the academy I would go to Greece. That’s where I came to feel most “at home.”

At the end of my studies I met a Turkish man in Istanbul.  We married, I learned the Turkish language, and we built a house in western Turkey. Changing my culture was not complicated for me, even though I was completely veiled. I loved my big Turkish family and raised my children there. Unfortunately, it all came to a bitter end.

Coming back to Germany was the beginning of feeling home there for the first time of my life. I bought a house, took care of my mother and children, rented a room in an old factory for atelier and began to work as an artist.

My connection to dance is very important to me. I discovered Salsa when I was 26 on a trip in South America. I got connected with the Salsa movement in Germany and I am still practicing. Most of the movement in my sculptures gets its origin in that rythm and motion.


I started my career as a sculpturor with a chainsaw and natural wood. My firth themes were either spirals or archaic round erotic female objects: Venus and AN-NA.


Later on I began to pose my AN-NAs between two shelves, creating the effect out of a single piece of wood.  It was an expression of my situation of being “in between.” Soon I understood this new form as being the synonym for my own life in between all places and cultures. The situation of being “in between” became itself a sculptural body. The fictional walls at the left and at the right became arms and legs of a new art creature. This form changed over time from very abstract to more realistic.

In Between

In my hometown I’m now one of the best known artists.  I make a living from selling my sculptures and pictures. The last four years I created a new form: the Cherubins on wheels, so described by Ezechiel in the old testament of the Bible. As he describes these angels as having wheels like “chrysolith,” I started making very small silver figures with wheels of chrysolith.

Ebba Kaynak

EBBA Kaynak, Schorndorf / Germany 2014

International Athletes Compete in Sarasota for Possible Olympic Opportunity

Posted: March 4th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Athlete & Artist Visas, Sarasota Immigrants | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Reposted from Sarasota Herald Tribune website.  Article originally posted on March 3rd, 2014.

SARASOTA – International triathletes — ranging from established elites to up and coming athletes under 19 — won’t just be competing for prize money at the Sarasota Pan American Cup at Nathan Benderson Rowing Park.

The sprint championships — held in addition to competitions for juniors and mixed teams of men and women — will likely be indicative of how elite triathletes will perform in qualifying events for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In addition to the championship events, two triathlons for youth and age-group competitors will be held on the same course during the competition this weekend.

“We’re trying to create a weekend event that caters to all types of athletes from the elites down to the age groupers,” Race Director Bill Burnett said.

While the 2016 Olympic qualifying period does not begin until May 15, the Sarasota competition for juniors is an important pathway in earning a spot at the Olympic Youth Games scheduled in Nanjing, China, this summer.

Hosted by Sarasota, the North American Junior Championships determine which 16- and 17-year-olds can compete in the Olympic Youth Games qualifying event in Mexico this May and includes triathletes under 19 from the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

This is the second year that Sarasota has hosted a Pan American Cup, a competition also held more recently in Clermont — near Orlando — and Dallas, Texas. Roughly 100 men and women from eight countries have registered for the main sprint championship this year, Burnett said.

Part of the appeal is the venue: a 600-acre rowing park on Cattlemen Road with the infrastructure to support swimming, biking and running, and lots of room for spectators.

American Tommy Zaferes, a Santa Cruz, Calif., native, came in second at last year’s sprint championships. Zaferes appreciated the opportunity to compete in two Pan Am cups, as the Clermont race is held a week before Sarasota’s race.

“There are only 3 Pan Am Cups in the USA, so having the chance to race in Clermont one weekend, then Sarasota the next weekend was a good opportunity for some good racing without the hassle of insane travel,” said Zaferes, who is training in New Zealand.

The sprint distance events in Sarasota include a 750-meter swim, 20K bike and 5K run. Youth under 16 will compete on an abbreviated course and the mixed teams (two men, two women) will complete shorter circuits of all three events each.

While the sprint championships events for elite triathletes comes with $10,000 in prize money, the race is perhaps more crucial for junior athletes, who range from 16 to 19 years old.

The event will serve as a selection event for the Panamerican Triathlon Confederation Junior Championships this spring — a key race in making the world championships — in addition to the Olympic Youth Games qualifying event in Mexico.

“These are some of very best athletes out there who are looking to eventually go to the Olympics,” Burnett said.

It’s a quest shared by many others.

Zafares will not compete in Sarasota this spring because he has chosen to start the racing season in New Zealand. Making the Olympics, he explains, relies on his ability to frequently compete, train up to 30 hours a week and rack up wins in key races.

Florida has been an important part of his development as a triathlete. He earned his pro card at an elite development race in Clermont during 2010, and he remembers the Sarasota’s Pan-American Cup as a fast course free of traffic.

“That race went great,” he said. “I just got outsprinted the last 200 meters by a Portuguese Olympian, so I can’t be bummed.”

Immigrant Athlete Shines in US Open Debut

Posted: September 12th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Athlete & Artist Visas | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

A promising immigrant athlete from Mexico made it to the US Open last week.  Her name is Cassandra Vazquez and she competed in the US Open Junior Girls Tournament.  We caught up with her coach/manager, Nicolas Guizar of Guizar Tennis Academy after the tournament to talk about his talented young trainee.  How did Cassandra do in the US Open?

Nicolas Guizar:  She won two matches in the qualifying tournament to get in to the main draw.  In the main draw where only the top 64 in the world play she lost her first match against the Number 5 in the world in a great match.  You must be so proud that she has made it this far, we certainly are!  To what do you attribute her success?

Nicolas Guizar:  Her success is based on discipline, hard work, and a well-organized program and supervision from our GTA Staff.  The pressure of being in the US Open must be intense.  How did she cope with the stress?

Nicolas Guizar: Cassandra has been working for this opportunity for many years and yes it is a lot of pressure but based on hard work and self-confidence she managed that pressure really well.  She was able to play her best game during the biggest tournament she ever played till now.  Now that she’s been to the US Open, what’s next for Cassandra?

Nicolas Guizar:  We will continue to work hard to help her get into the top 10 in the world.  Our goal is that Cassandra will be in 4 Grand Slams in 2014 (U.S. OPEN, WIMBLEDON, FRENCH OPEN, AUSTRALIAN OPEN) and will win one of those.  We also would like to see Cassandra join the ranks of professional Tennis.

2013.0910.Cassandra Vazquez

Cassandra Vazquez delivering a powerful forehand.

We will be following this very talented and driven immigrant athlete closely in the coming years.

Immigrant Athlete Resource: Impact Basketball/Elevation Academy

Posted: July 25th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Athlete & Artist Visas, Sarasota Immigrants | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Here at Jaensch Immigration Law Firm we are constantly searching for new resources for our clients.  We post information for immigrant investors looking for economic opportunities, for DREAMers and DACA applicants, and for immigrant athletes.  Lately we caught up with friend of the firm, Cary Cohenour, who told us about a new partnership with Impact Basketball/Elevation Academy.  We did our research and realized we had just found another great immigrant athlete resource in the Sarasota area.

Few areas match Sarasota-Bradenton for the quality of its athletic facilities.  The presence of world-renowned IMG Academy creates a strong gravitational pull that brings the best and brightest of the sports world to our warm shores.  Many coaches who may begin their career at IMG decide to start their own academy, focused on their area of passion, in the Sarasota-Bradenton area.  IMPACT Basketball/Elevation Academy is an example of such a place..

IMPACT Basketball Logo

IMPACT Basketball was founded by Joe Abunassar and Tom Carollo to train amateur and professional basketball athletes from all over the world.  All athletes receive the same training – intense but very effective.  A three-pronged approach of drills/skills, endurance and nutrition gives the training an incredible synergy.  You can check out what IMPACT does here:

2013 Elevation Logo

Elevation Preparatory Academy is an internationally accredited high school and post graduate college prep school.  The academy prepares students for college with rigorous academic engagement.  At the same time, the academy’s flexible schedule can accommodate the students’ extra-curricular area of focus.  They are a SEVIS-designated school, certified to issue I-20’s, which helps them attract international athletes.   IMPACT Basketball Academy, Celsius Tennis Academy, and Missing Links Golf Academy, all send their athletes to learn at Elevation Preparatory Academy.  You can look at Elevation’s website here:

Elevation provides apartment-style dormitory housing, meals and transportation.  All students are supervised 24/7 with a live-in coach in each unit, so parents can feel comfortable that their child is living in a safe environment.

One of the biggest issues for young immigrant athletes is qualifying for a visa to live and train for extended periods of time in the United States.  A student visa is one option for such athletes.  In order to qualify, the student must be attending a bona fide school.  IMPACT Basketball/Elevation Academy solve this issue by providing a place to learn that is tailored to the demanding schedules of young immigrant athletes in the Sarasota area.

Please find more information on Elevation Academy and Impact Basketball in the PDFs below:

Tips for Tennis Players Currently Selecting Universities by Coach Cary Cohenour

Posted: July 23rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Athlete & Artist Visas | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Friend of the firm Cary Cohenour was recently published in Florida Tennis Magazine.  His article gives important advice to tennis players currently selecting a university to attend.

Cary Cohenour is Head Coach at the Celsius Tennis Academy in Sarasota

Cary Cohenour is Head Coach at the Celsius Tennis Academy in Sarasota

“Finding the right university for both tennis and the best education can be the most important decision in a student-athlete’s career.  There are no guarantees you will find the perfect fit in both areas.  It’s very important to weigh out your options.  For example, decide first if you are looking for a program that’s going to aide you in improving your game, if so, do a ‘background check’ on the coach.  Find out what kind of relationship he or she has had with past players.  Rarely will you find a coach at the lower ranked schools that spends a lot of time working to improve a players technical skills, but he or she might be a good motivator, which can be a huge asset if you arrive with a solid base in your game.  If you are looking to go Division I and you have the ranking to back it up, there are more talented coaches out there (in my opinion) than we have had in the history of college tennis.  Coaches such as Bryan Shelton, women’s coach at Georgia Tech and Mario Rinson, men’s coach at University at Miami, just to name a few.  These coaches are building players not just programs.  However, the majority of you should, and are thinking education first. It is very important that you don’t limit your options.  Remember, the coach is looking out for his or her job, so they might have their own reasons for not giving you a scholarship or helping you get in to the school.  Move on and start the process early.  If you wait too long it could be too late.  Make a long list, make a video and continue to be persistent, eventually you’ll find what you are looking for.

Tip: Meet with your high school counselor frequently and be realistic about where you can get in with your grades.”

Cary also tells us that Celsius has recently teamed up with the renowned Elevation Academy Basketball on McIntosh Rd.  Elevation has its own school and boarding facilities and many of its students come from abroad.

To read more about Coach Cary and Celsius Tennis Academy, check out our previous blog post.

For more information on sports immigration visit our SportsVisaAmerica website.

Immigrant Athlete Resource: John Newcombe Tennis Academy

Posted: July 22nd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Athlete & Artist Visas | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

The Newcombe Tennis Academy motto is TEAM-FAMILY-TEAM.  This Texan Tennis Academy is more than just a training ground for dedicated and talented young tennis players.  It is a family of players, professionals, and mentors, unlimited in their goals, becoming one unified team striving for excellence.

Newcombe Tennis Academy Logo


To develop the entire person.  To impact each child’s life through the sport of tennis.  To unleash a player’s potential.


One of the world’s finest tennis academies, John Newcombe’s world class tennis program uses every aspect of tennis training to develop a player’s full potential with a strong emphasis on match play and tournament competition.  Coaches travel with players to tournaments to observe them and then return back to the Ranch to work on areas in need of improvement.

The Tennis Academy offers 24 hard courts, 4 hydro clay courts, a recreation room with computer access, pool/spa, state-of-the-art weights and fitness center, and full-time expert trainers.  Newcombe’s staff utilize sports psychology to work on the mental aspects of the game as well as video analysis for the technical aspects of the game.

Newcombe Tennis Academy Athletics
One of the Academy’s strongest areas is their vigorous and intense fitness program.  Phil Hendrie, Director, is one of the top fitness experts in the United States.  He conducts a variety of footwork, speed and endurance training, as well as a weekly weight training program.

Newcombe Tennis Academy Academics


New Braunfels High School is repeatedly recognized for academic excellence with SAT scores that surpass both state and national averages.

There are also several private schools nearby or on campus that provide excellent educational opportunities for Tennis Academy students.  Going to school while training is one way for an immigrant athlete to qualify for a visa.

The Academy offers an onsite tutor and study room.

Newcombe Tennis Academy


The Tennis Academy staff is in constant contact with college coaches and often plays host to coaches and recruiters.  They are dedicated to finding a university that fits the students’ academic and tennis standards.

They guide the students through the NCAA registration and clearing house process, take them to SAT and TOEFL tests and well as develop college recruiting videos.

In the last decade they have had 100% college placement success.

Newcombe Tennis Academy students have attended:

UCLA Ohio State University
Vanderbilt University US Air Force Academy
College of William & Mary Texas A&M
Purdue University University of Texas
Colorado State University University of Georgia
Boise State University Georgia Tech
US Military Academy at Westpoint University of Tennessee
Furman University DePaul University
University of Michigan Florida State University
Harvard University North Carolina State University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Rice University

and many more!


The John Newcombe Tennis Academy offers generous scholarships to eligible students.

For more information on their year-round tennis training program, please contact Mariel Tinnirello:

For more information on sports immigration visit our SportsVisaAmerica website.

Accomplished Bradenton Immigrant Builds Team, Tennis Academy

Posted: April 29th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Athlete & Artist Visas, Sarasota Immigrants | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

The Sarasota-Bradenton area enjoys a preponderance of very high-quality athletic training facilities.  For this reason many foreign athletes come to this area to train and pursue careers as professional athletes.  Maria Sharapova, Anna Kournikova, Tommy Haas, and Boris Becker are just a few of the names of top-notch immigrant athletes who trained in the Sarasota-Bradenton area.  The presence of so much athletic talent in this area would not be possible without equally talented coaches and trainers to support and mentor it.  Denis Pelegrin is one of those coaches.

Denis Pelegrin

Denis Pelegrin

Denis Pelegrin is a Sarasota-Bradenton immigrant from the Dominican Republic.  He played tennis as a young man and found his true calling as a coach.  He coached for the ITF, becoming internationally known, and in 2004 he was hired by IMG Academy to coach tennis there.  IMG helped him obtain an O-1 visa.  The O-1 visa is for aliens with extraordinary ability and is issued for up to three years.  To qualify, the athlete or trainer must show he or she has received sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for achievement in the sport.  Denis qualified and worked for IMG for 5 years.  In the meantime he obtained his green card and began outsourcing himself, becoming a contractor for IMG.  In 2010 Denis left IMG completely and establish his own academy, ProTennis Academy, in Bradenton.  He reformed his old team of coaches, including his partner, Rodrigo Vallejo.

ProTennis Academy

ProTennis Academy

Today Denis Pelegrin and his fellow coaches offer private and semi-private lessons at an athletic facility he rents on 33rd Avenue Dr W in Bradenton.  Including Denis there are 4 tennis coaches and 1 fitness coach.  The facility includes hard and clay courts, a gym, and an Olympic sized pool.  Denis and his coaches are currently working with up to 20 students.  They concentrate on providing truly personalized training, only allowing two players per coach while other academies often place 4 or 5 students with each coach.

Denis plans on holding more clinics and traveling to coaching seminars in the future.  The clinics would be  3-day quick courses on tennis, personalized to each athlete’s needs.  The author is hoping to participate and report on one in the near future.  Further ahead, Denis is developing plans to buy some land and set up his own, independent, athletic facility.  We wish him all the best!

To contact Denis Pelegrin you can visit his website,, or call (941) 580-7794.

Sarasota Sports Medicine Doctor Sees Positive Results from use of Stem Cells

Posted: December 13th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Athlete & Artist Visas | Tags: , , , | No Comments »


Dr. William Bennett’s Office on Tamiami Trail

Dr. William Bennett has been practicing sports medicine in Sarasota for 6 years.  He was an early adopter of the experimental use of adult stem cells in treating sports injuries.  After 2-4 years of follow-up study he is more willing to share what he has found, and the results are good.

He treated one of the world’s major Polo Patrons with bone marrow derived adult stem cells.  After the procedure, this patient took his team, Zacara, on to win the British Open Gold Cup and the US Open.  This patient had flown from London to Sarasota to be treated by Dr. Bennett.

He has treated the national over-50 bodybuilding champion, the AAA beach volleyball champion, the vintage motorcycle champion, and a 16-year-old IMG golfer in similar fashion.

The advantage to using adult derived stem cells, besides the fact that they do not present any of the moral issues that embryonic stem cells do, is that the stem cells can grow into any other kind of cell.  When Dr. Bennett injects stem cells into a damaged area the cells automatically begin to regrow tissue necessary to that area.  There is a recent push among orthopedists to use human-derived treatments.  The more the body can heal itself the more long-term and healthy the repair will be.  Using stem-cells is part of this movement.

For more information visit Dr. Bennett’s website, and click on the “Health Library” link.  Dr. Bennett’s office is located at 1250 S. Tamiami Tr Suite 303, Sarasota, FL 34239, (941) 953-5509.

Clearwater Tennis Academy Moves to New Facility

Posted: December 6th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Athlete & Artist Visas | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

The Guizar Tennis Academy moved to new facilities in Clearwarter, FL.  The location, formerly known as the Royal Racquet Club, is now called Total Tennis Center.  Students train on 10 clay and 2 hard courts.  Facilities include a tennis-specific gym, a pool, jacuzzi, cafeteria, classroom, proshop and more.  The best part is the new facility’s location; 15 minutes from Tampa airport and right next to the Clearwater Beaches.

To find out more, you may read the GTA News Letter or visit the GTA Website.

Exciting Tennis Event Coming Soon to Sarasota

Posted: December 4th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Athlete & Artist Visas | Tags: , | No Comments »

Sarasota’s Bath and Racquet Club will be hosting the Bryan Brothers, world number 1 doubles team, for a doubles shootout with Max Miryni and Horia Tecau on Saturday December 15th 2012.

The Sarasota Bath and Racquet Club is home to Celsius Junior Tennis Academy run by our friend, Cary Cohenour.  There will be a junior exhibition as well as the main pro exhibition event.

There will also be an after party featuring the Bryan Brothers Band (yes, the Bryan Brothers are also musicians).  Should be a good time.

Click here to purchase tickets.

Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Tournament

Posted: December 3rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Athlete & Artist Visas, Jaensch Immigration Law Firm | Tags: , , | No Comments »

This year Jaensch Immigration Law Firm sponsored the Eddie Herr International Junior Championship held at IMG Sports Academy in Bradenton.  We recently wrapped up our involvement with the tournament and wanted to report on our experience and share some photos.

Work started on Monday, November 19 when we put up our banners and tent in preparation for the tournament.

We had Thanksgiving off but the hard-working folks at IMG were on campus, registering players and preparing the brackets.

Friday was the first day of the tournament and we showed up bright and early to set up our tent.  We wanted it to look like the inside of a comfortable office so we brought chairs, stools and coffee tables.  We placed snacks and drinks on the coffee table, free for players and coaches to take.  We had a laptop and a photo displayer showing this slideshow.

Jaensch Immigration Law Firm – Immigration Answers from Michael Marquet

After getting set up we settled in to a routine.  Players, parents and coaches would walk by, pick up drinks or a snack, and share stories about their immigration experiences.  Often, the same people kept coming back day after day.  We really got to know a few of them very well.  We also got to meet some of our fellow sponsors like Smoothie King and Aline.  IMG hooked us up with free meals every day from Nick and Bennies.  Their tomato salad was incredible!

Juniors as young as 12, and up to 18, played in the tournament.  There was a lot of athletic talent on display.  We were able to walk between the courts, which were only a few hundred yards away, and see for ourselves.  It was good to see some of the players we had met through their visits to our tent play in matches on the courts.

The first few days were devoted to singles play.  Around Tuesday the tournament switched to doubles play.

Quite a few well-known tennis celebrities were present.  Maria Sharapova, an IMG alumnus, visited on Monday.  John Isner played an exhibition match with Xavier Malisse on Tuesday.  Tuesday was also the player party but by that point we had left the campus.

It was on Tuesday that our managing attorney, Chris Jaensch set aside some time to come to IMG to give a short talk on sports immigration and answer questions.  After the talk people were lining up to speak to him in the tent.  Most of the people at the tournament were, in fact, foreign.

Overall we were very pleased with our experience at IMG.  Everything from the banners to the tent decorations worked out great and getting in and out was easy.  We were well taken care of with free meals, electricity and even a TV!  We learned some lessons for next time and we look forward to a similar opportunity next year.

An interior view of our tent

A view of some of the courts at IMG

A view of the main path through the Eddie Herr tournament

Lakewood Ranch Becoming Sports Tourism Destination

Posted: November 20th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Athlete & Artist Visas | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

As seen on Bradenton Herald Website:

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Lakewood Ranch is rapidly becoming a world renowned sports destination, and several Manatee and state-wide sports officials say the East Manatee community may become a premier magnet for sports tourism.

Aided by the attention brought to the area by IMG’s Sports Training Academy in Bradenton and the Florida World Aquatic Center at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch can host national and international events in soccer, football, golf, lacrosse, cross country, polo and non-mainstream sports like Ultimate Frisbee, all of which

equate to millions of dollars spent in the sports tourism industry.

During the past 18 months, Lakewood Ranch has hosted national and international events at its $2.5 million, 22-soccer field facility sitting on 75 acres near the intersection of State Road 70 and Lorraine Road. Officials with Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, the developer of Lakewood Ranch, say the events have brought more than 100,000 visitors this year to the Manatee-Sarasota area and generated $65 million in economic impact.

Opened in April 2011, The Premier Sports Campus at 5895 Post Blvd., Lakewood Ranch, has already been used by U.S. Soccer, the national governing body of soccer, Major League Soccer’s DC United and several youth and minor sport organizations. When U.S. Soccer returns to the campus this month for a week-long showcase, it will be aired on FoxSoccer, a specialty channel owned by Fox Entertainment.

If things go as planned, similar events scheduled at the campus, as well as the Sarasota Polo fields, will be broadcast to millions around the globe.

“We’ve been receiving interest from the NCAA and other college divisions, and because we will have a stadium, those events will be televised as well,” said Tim Mulqueen, director of sports at Lakewood Ranch.

Officials at SMR are planning to make improvements to accommodate large events that will solidify the sports campus as an international, multi-use facility for training and sports events.

For the past year, Sarasota-based GoodSports Enterprises LLC and SMR have been in talks about building a 55,000-square-foot indoor multi-use facility and 115-room hotel with dormitory-style lodging at Lakewood Ranch. The indoor facility could be used for basketball, volleyball, martial arts, cheerleading, gymnastics and other indoor events. SMR officials also say additions to The Premier Sports campus will include permanent bathrooms, concession areas, stadium seating, a locker room facility, indoor strength and conditioning training facility, outdoor track and a scoreboard.

With these changes, sports officials around the state say Lakewood Ranch can become a hub for sports.

“The sports complex, for lack of a better word, was a game changer in terms of Florida, the Southwest Coast and the Manatee-Sarasota area,” said Joe Picket, Manatee’s sports commissioner. “It has the potential, and will be an epicenter going forward.”

“Those multi-use fields can be used for a variety of things,” said Nick Gandy, director of communications for the Florida Sports Foundation, the official sports promotion and development organization for Florida. “There’s a lot of opportunity for this complex. There is a big demand for those kind of facilities.”

That demand includes Lakewood Ranch becoming an offseason training destination for college and professional athletes.

A Canadian Football League team has inquired about using the facility, and there have been discussions between SMR and Pirate City, the spring training complex for the Pittsburgh Pirates, about housing visiting athletes at the Bradenton complex for events in Lakewood Ranch. In turn, there is potential for baseball players to use the campus for performance training.

“It definitely has huge potential, not just attracting events and visitors to the area,” said Trevor Gooby, senior director of Florida Operations for the Pittsburgh Pirates. “It’s a great asset and complements what we have here with the Pirates. It makes us a destination that stands out among other counties.”

This past February, the campus was used to train several college football stars in preparation for NFL combines, an evaluation of draft prospects. Mike Gough, owner of Lakewood Ranch’s Athletic Edge, an 8,500-square-foot athletic facility on Main Street, trained more than two dozen college athletes, including 15 who were either drafted or signed as free agents. Gough also trains pro baseball players, pro golfers and even 10-year old tennis prodigies at his facility and the sports campus.

“With the addition of more housing in the area, we’ll see professional and national teams use our facility as a national training center,” Mulqueen said.

Though SMR will not shy away from working with professional markets, SMR does not want to compete with facilities like IMG in Bradenton, which is regarded as one of the top athletic training facilities in the world, or the Olympic-style rowing facility in Sarasota, which is the first 2,000-meter course in the U.S. capable of hosting national and world championships as approved by FISA, the international rowing federation.

Instead, the campus will primarily cater to local and amateur events that will bring families to the area.

“That will spur the relationship into the tourism, the hospitality, and the restaurant business,” said Rex Jensen, president and chief executive officer of SMR.

Unable to compete with hotels near the area’s beaches, sports events have given Lakewood Ranch hotels a new source of customers. This past Labor Day weekend, more than 19,000 people converged on Lakewood Ranch for a youth soccer tournament at the campus that resulted in a $13 million economic impact.

“Our entire business mix has changed from a majority of corporate, to corporate, leisure and sports,” said Rob Ferguson, director of sales for the Holiday Inn and Fairfield Inn in Lakewood Ranch. “Our weekends have done so much better since we’re not at the beach. We probably can attribute 5 to 10 percent of our occupancy to the sports campus alone. It’s not only benefiting owners, but employees because they’re getting more hours.”

The sports industry is better shielded from the still-weak economy, industry experts say.

“Sports tourism has shown it remains strong when other tourism numbers have declined or fallen flat,” Gandy said. “With an indoor facility, people from up north would want to come down and get away. They might want to come down early and have some vacation time.”

“It’s going to start, No. 1, with additional business opportunities,” Picket said. “Businesses are starting to purchase leases and training space. You’ll see other sports and camps come around and they will buy real estate in the area. Then we’ll see a housing boom. It will help sell residential and commercial in that area.”

Picket’s statement is backed by a recent analysis by the Manatee Economic Development Corp., which shows the sports performance industry has a large impact on county employment.

The sports industry in Manatee employs at least 1,969 workers through 156 business establishments, which include manufacturing, sports instruction, sports promotion, sporting good stores and spectator sports. According to the analysis, for every job added in sports performance, at least another 1.5 are created in different industries that in some way benefit. That multiplier peaks at spectator sports, which creates an additional 1.71 jobs for every position.

The potential to spread Lakewood Ranch marketability as a sports destination will only be amplified with its golf offerings. Lakewood Ranch is home to championship courses and has hosted PGA and LPGA events.

The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort is rated one of the best in the world and has hosted several U.S. Open regional qualifiers and this year, co-hosted the Florida Open.

The West Florida Golf Tour, a development tour, frequently uses courses in Lakewood Ranch. During its two years of existence, several PGA Tour winners have played on the tour.

“It’s a great area,” said Christian Bartolacci, West Florida Golf Tour director. “This area is ready to boom and golf is the next best thing. It’s only a matter of time.”

Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext.7049.

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