By Matt Griswold
Bradenton Herald Staff Writer
LAKEWOOD RANCH, Fla. – One by one, a massive crane lifts giant wall panels and sets them in place. And day by day, the 60-acre site composed mainly of dirt and conduit looks more and more like a hockey arena.
Walls reaching 53 feet tower over the northwest corner of the arena’s inner bowl. Project engineer Sam Horton says another 12 feet will be added to the top, placing the building’s roof about 65 feet in the air.
To the south, the unfinished Center Ice Parkway winds east off Lakewood Ranch Boulevard in front of the construction site. An eight-acre lake, still just a large crater, waits for the rainy season to make it whole.
Still a month away from its peak, construction is fully under way, and about 300 workers will be on site at the peak of construction each day.
DVA Sports is building the 7,400-seat, 220,000-square-foot multipurpose sports and entertainment arena in Lakewood Ranch. The site is about 2.5 miles east of Interstate 75 and about a mile north of State Road 70. It will be the home of the ECHL’s Gulf Coast Swords, a football team from the arenafootball2 league, and according to the developers, probably a basketball team from the NBA’s developmental league.
A troublesome rainy season that threatened the scheduled start of Gulf Coast Swords hockey in the fall is now a distant memory.
“We’ve even developed some float time back into the schedule,” said Chuck Madden, a development partner with DVA Sports in the arena project. “We’re playing hockey here in November. That’s it.”