Florida Classic highlights development near stadium
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
HOME DELIVERY RATES career.
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.
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