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Business Observer Friday, Jul. 26, 2013 9 years ago

RV firm leases former Sarasota convention center

California-based La Mesa RV Center expands to the Sarasota-Bradenton market with a lease for 120,00 square feet.

SARASOTA-BRADENTON — One of the largest RV dealerships in the country, San Diego-based La Mesa RV Center Inc., is expanding to the Sarasota-Bradenton market in a big way: It will lease one of the largest vacant properties in town, the 120,000-square-foot former Sarasota-Bradenton International Convention Center.

Terms of the lease deal weren't disclosed, though Peter Bartys, an agent with Sperry Van Ness Commercial Advisory Group in Sarasota who handled the transaction, called it a long-term arrangement. La Mesa, which sells new and used RVs and has a parts and service department, already runs Florida facilities in Fort Myers, Orlando and West Palm Beach. Bartys says the firm sought space in the Sarasota-Bradenton market where it could store a large number of RVs inside, to protect against weather elements.

“They were looking for a big opportunity in this area,” Bartys says in an interview today with the Business Observer. “This building was just right for them.”

The building, near the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, comes with 17 acres of parking spots. The building also has somewhat of a sour recent history. Local entrepreneur Oscar Parsons bought the building in 2003, when it was a shuttered Sam's Club. Then 80 years old, Parsons paid $3 million for the property, with the vision of turning it into a bustling events center that would draw thousands of people to the region every year. Parsons spent more than $7 million on renovations and upgrades to the facility.

But while the center held several events and trade shows, long-term success never materialized. Parsons, in a 2010 interview, says he lost too much money to keep going.

Parsons still owns the building, and will be La Mesa's landlord. Bartys says La Mesa officials approached Sperry Van Ness about the space a few months ago. La Mesa has nine other locations beyond Florida, spread between Arizona, California and New Mexico. The company was founded in 1972.

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