Auburndale officials hope project spurs development.
The Lake Myrtle Sports Complex in Auburndale is getting another resident — the USA Water Sports Complex and Training Center.
The $8 million complex will be built in two phases. The first will have a cable park, aqua-park for kids, pro shop, waterfront café and a lake for events. It is scheduled to be completed later this year. Plans for the second phase, scheduled to open by 2020, include the USA Water Ski and Wake Sports Foundation headquarters, Water Ski Hall of Fame and museum, rooftop garden and grandstands.
It’s a big push for water sports glory — in a county that doesn’t touch either Florida coast. “This will bring people from all over the world,” says Tracy Mattes, USA Water Ski and Wake Sports Foundation executive director.
Not only will it encourage water sports enthusiasts to train in Polk County, the complex, officials hope, will attract those wanting to try water skiing for the first time. “This will get a new generation of kids on the water,” Mattes says.
Why Polk? Water skiing has a rich history here dating back to the 1940s and 1950s — when it was known as the water ski capital of the world. “We wanted to keep that connection and historical aspect,” Mattes says, adding that plans include a big marketing campaign.
Watersports is experiencing an evolution, so much so it may be making its way to the Olympics. Cable wakeboarding, for example, is currently shortlisted for review to be considered for the 2020 Olympics. “This could be a training site for Olympians,” Mattes says. “There is so much excitement. It’s great for the county.”
Officials hope there’s a wave of development in conjunction with the push for water. “Developers are putting out feelers,” says Amy Palmer, community development director for the city of Auburndale. “It’s all about timing for them to make a commitment. With the development of SunTrax, the water ski complex and distribution centers, commercial activity will follow those.”
That especially applies to Auburndale, east of Lakeland. “Auburndale will have a need for hotels, restaurants and retail,” says Mattes. “In five to 10 years Auburndale will look a lot different.”