Lakewood Ranch, Florida
Lakewood Ranch is an unincorporated community master planned community in southeastern Manatee County, Florida, United States, built on part of what was once a timber ranch owned by members of Milwaukee's Uihlein family. It is part of the North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population for the 34202 ZIP Code Tabulation Area, in which Lakewood Ranch is located, was 15,335 at the 2000 Census.
Started in 1995, Lakewood Ranch has an 8,500-acre (3,400 ha) master-planned community within it, consisting of seven villages with a variety of housing types.
Lakewood Ranch is located within the Manatee County region in Florida. The area was the likely landing site for the Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto along with his crew of conquistadors in 1539. Other explorers like Josiah Gates landed on the area as well, but it was later unofficially founded in 1855. Manatee County stretches almost 900 sq mi (2,300 km2) including waterways, which provided an exceptional source of transportation. Railroads, bridges, and roadways were eventually added for an easier access in and out of the area.
Along with transportation development came a rapid growth in population during the early 1920s. Others saw the area as a vacation destination and retirement place. Also, with the warm southern climate as an asset, baseball became a popular sport there, along with spring training camps and professional teams would travel down there. A few years later, after the Great Depression in the 1930s and World War II, other industries expanded, such as agriculture and fishing. Other developments in the industries were retail, education, and tourism. The first neighborhood development, Summerfield, went up in 1995. As the area expanded over the years, along with the population, a master-planned community was created called Lakewood Ranch.
Recreation, health and fitness
Lakewood Ranch has dedicated half of its land for parks, trails, and recreational fun. The trails alone stretch over 150 miles of the land.
Along with parks and trails that make up most of the land, Lakewood Ranch has also put great importance on golf and tennis. Four notable country clubs are Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club, Legacy Golf Club, the Ritz Carlton’s Members Club, and The Concession Golf Club. Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club provides three levels of courses to cater the right amount of difficulty to every player. The names of the three are King’s Dunes, Cypress Links, and Royal Lakes, located on the east side of the Country Club. These courses are private, along with the Ritz Carlton’s Members Club course. The Ritz Carlton is 315 acres (127 ha) of land. A non-membership course in Lakewood Ranch is the Legacy Golf Club, which is Arnold Palmer’s signature course. Finally, the Concession Golf Club  and Residences is a club within a private community. It is a 1,200-acre (490 ha) reserve with 236 homes. Jack Nicklaus contributed it in association with Tony Jacklin.
The Athletic Center at Lakewood Ranch offers Tennis facilities along with 18 courts.
Other recreational activities include polo and cricket. Lakewood Ranch has nine fields and a regulation size arena that can be played on throughout the winter season. The polo fields are located on 35 private ranches with over 600 horses stabled around the Club during the season.
Founded more than 25 years ago, the Sarasota International Cricket Club houses its permanent facility at Lakewood Ranch. The fields have been laser-leveled to improve the players’ match play and practice wickets. Lakewood Ranch has its own Medical Center.
Shopping, dining and entertainment
Main Street is the local downtown shopping, dining, and events center. It offers amenities like clothing and retail, food (grocery, wine, and spirits), restaurants (coffee shops, ice cream parlors, family-style, international cuisine), and art festivals. Some recognizable names of the area are The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the ancestral Wallenda family circus troupe, and The Sarasota Film Society.
Main Street has its own theater of six screens and shows new release movies, as well as independent films from the Sarasota Film Society. Other events at Main Street include the following: Music on Main, Evening Under the Stars, Suncoast Wine Festival, and Art at the Ranch. During the Christmas season, Main Street attracts locals by creating a huge tree in the middle of its circle drive, decorations, and fake snows that fall from the store’s rooftops; Christmas music is piped in through speakers on the street.
Schools and colleges
Several schools are located in Lakewood Ranch.
- Braden River Middle School
- R. Dan Nolan Middle School
- Carlos E. Haile Middle School
- Gilbert W. McNeal Elementary School
- Robert Willis Elementary School
- Braden River Elementary School
- DB Gullet Elementary School
- Freedom Elementary School
- Out-of-Door Academy
- Sea of Strengths Academy
- Keiser University
- State College of Florida, Manatee–Sarasota
- University of South Florida Sarasota–Manatee
- Manatee Technical Institute
- David Baas, Center for the N.Y. Giants NFL
- Ken Dorsey, former NFL quarterback
- Dick Vitale, basketball broadcaster
- Erika Tymrak, Midfielder for FC Kansas City
- Jaden Hair, food personality