Plans Unveiled for Sports Academy at the Sarah Vande Berg Learning Center
By Dave Walters
Zephyrhills could become the center of the tennis universe as plans for the were unveiled Monday night for the Sports Academy at the Sarah Vande Berg Learning Center, a new school planned for Zephyrhills.
The massive campus addition to the Sarah Vande Berg Wellness and Tennis Center is expected to include an international residential sports academy, dormitories, an indoor tennis center as well as 31 individual homes. The plans show the academy will be the home for roughly 80 on-campus students plus local students.
Pascal Collard, the CEO of Tennis Pro Florida, which operates the tennis center, gave a presentation to Zephyrhills City Council outlining the preliminary plans for the supplement to the recently opened center.
Collard informed city council he has commitments from investor at the tune of roughly $15 million toward the project.
The Sara Vande Berg Wellness and Tennis Center has hosted a national padel tournament, the senior games pickleball tournament and two tennis tournaments. There are two more tournaments scheduled at the facility including a national tournament in February with a $10,000 purse.
Collard said a key element to the project is the construction of the indoor tennis facility which the city plans to use state funds to cover the costs. “This will be a game changer,” Collard said. “We will be the only one to have that kind of facility in Florida except for the National Tennis Center (in Orlando). That is going to be huge.”
The Sports Academy at the Sarah Vande Berg Learning Center will have a positive impact on the local economy, Collard told members of city council.
“That will be pretty big for the city,” Collard said.
“I know it’s conceptual at this point, but it’s really exciting to see this evolve so quickly,” said councilman Lance Smith. “The tennis center has been open for three months. It shows the public-private partnerships we created are working well.”
Nair Prakash, founding president and CEO of Education Design International, will be partnering with Tennis Pro Florida on the project and has developed the preliminary plans for the “learning village” that will capture an international flair and attract student-athletes from around the world.
Prakash said the new residential sports academy will raise the city’s regional and national profile, provide additional tax revenue, increase neighboring property values by 15 percent or more, become a valuable community resource and provide the city with a diverse international community.
Education will be the focus of the learning center, which will be on the “cutting edge” of educational techniques.
“This won’t be like your school or your grandmother’s school,” Prakash said. “There is nothing like this anywhere in the country. We put all the compatible uses together. We want to put together that mind-body connection.”