Florida Clas­sic high­lights devel­op­ment near sta­dium

Orlando Sentinel - - OPINION - By Eddy Mo­ratin in­[email protected]­lan­dosen­tinel.com Or­lan­doSen­tinel.com/let­ters

On Satur­day af­ter­noon, more than 50,000 fans are ex­pected to pass through the gates at Camp­ing World Sta­dium for the Florida Clas­sic be­tween BethuneCoo­k­man and Florida A&M, with spec­ta­tors trav­el­ing far and wide to be a part of one of the truly great ex­pe­ri­ences in col­lege athletics.

In fact, in a given year, as many as three out of ev­ery four Clas­sic at­ten­dees come from out­side the Or­lando area, mak­ing the game and its an­cil­lary events — a week­end blitz that in­cludes a jobs fair, a kick­off lun­cheon and Fri­day night’s Bat­tle of the Bands at Amway Cen­ter, among oth­ers — a boon for lo­cal tourism.

To see the im­pact an event like the Clas­sic has on Cen­tral Florida, how­ever, one does not need to zoom in on our thriv­ing tourist cor­ri­dor or the var­i­ous cel­e­bra­tions dot­ting the down­town strip in the com­ing days. In­stead, just fo­cus your lens on the proud neigh­bor­hood that calls the game home.

In 2014, in con­junc­tion with the re­con­struc­tion of Camp­ing World Sta­dium, res­i­dents of the five his­toric neigh­bor­hoods sur­round­ing the bowl — Clear Lake Cove, Lake Lorna Doone, Rock Lake, Lake Sun­set/Luola Ter­race, and Clear­lake: Bunche Manor/Hol­lando — came to­gether to form what is known to­day as the Com­mu­ni­ties of West Lakes.

The Com­mu­ni­ties of West Lakes stretch from Colo­nial Drive to Clear Lake’s north shore, near Orange Cen­ter Boule­vard to the north and south and from Orange Blos­som Trail to John Young Park­way to the east and west, with the sta­dium com­mit­ted to serv­ing as a beat­ing heart in the cen­ter of it all. And in five short years, the teams at Lift Or­lando and Florida Citrus Sports have worked in con­junc­tion with the res­i­dents to make great strides in the on­go­ing ef­fort to fa­cil­i­tate holis­tic neigh­bor­hood trans­for­ma­tion in these his­tor­i­cally un­der­served com­mu­ni­ties.

One of our first and most vis­i­ble projects, Pen­dana at West Lakes, brought 200 units of af­ford­able hous­ing to a cor­ner once con­demned as one of the worst apart­ment com­plexes in town. In the com­ing months, an­other 120 units of af­ford­able se­nior hous­ing will be com­pleted on the Pen­dana grounds, along with an early learn­ing cen­ter on the doorstep of Orange Cen­ter El­e­men­tary — part of a cra­dle-to-ca­reer ed­u­ca­tion plan in­tended to give each child grow­ing up in the Com­mu­ni­ties of West Lakes an ex­cel­lent ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ence that leads to a great


Other ef­forts in the pipe­line in­clude a state-of-the-art Boys & Girls Club and im­proved ac­cess to health and well­ness care in the com­mu­nity, to say noth­ing of the on­go­ing $9 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion to Lake Lorna Doone Park – a long over­due pro­ject in con­junc­tion with the city that will fi­nally give res­i­dents a public gath­er­ing space be­fit­ting of the area’s legacy. All told, more than $100 mil­lion in cap­i­tal im­prove­ments have been com­mit­ted to the Com­mu­ni­ties of West Lakes, with ev­ery penny spent in ser­vice of our mis­sion to build a neigh­bor­hood where chil­dren grow up with hope and re­turn with joy. And it’s be­cause of events like the Clas­sic that we’ve been able to ex­e­cute that am­bi­tious vi­sion as ef­fec­tively as we have thus far.

Suc­cess at Camp­ing World Sta­dium begets suc­cess in the Com­mu­ni­ties of West Lakes, and vice versa. And in a neigh­bor­hood dot­ted with gen­er­a­tions of grad­u­ates from both FAMU and B-CU, there’s no more per­fect rep­re­sen­ta­tion of ev­ery­thing this com­mu­nity can be than the Florida Clas­sic — a true fam­ily re­union where Rat­tlers and Wild­cats of all ages come to­gether to cel­e­brate their teams, each other and what’s to come for one of the city’s most ex­tra­or­di­nary dis­tricts.

We still have a long way to go to achieve our shared goals for cre­at­ing path­ways to suc­cess for our neigh­bors in the shadow of the sta­dium. But as we forge ahead on that path, it’s im­por­tant that we rec­og­nize the progress we’ve al­ready made, as well as the peo­ple and the uni­ver­si­ties who have played such an in­valu­able role in mak­ing the dreams of the Com­mu­ni­ties of West Lakes a re­al­ity.

SOME­THING ON YOUR MIND? Ideal let­ters to the edi­tor are brief and to the point. Let­ters may be edited for clar­ity, ac­cu­racy or length. Sub­mis­sions re­quire the writer’s name, ad­dress and phone num­ber.

633 N. Orange Ave., Or­lando, FL 32801

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