Massive youth sports complex, hotel, charter school planned for St. Lucie County
"Ain't that a kick in the head?" Dean Martin used to sing.
I was asking myself the same question after listening to Christopher Corey describe plans for a massive sports complex on 37 acres along Midway Road, a little over a mile west of Interstate 95 in St. Lucie County.
Don't misunderstand: I want to believe Corey and his partners can achieve their vision for the property, located near the Wavegarden development project approved by Fort Pierce city commissioners in January. At this point, I don't have any reason to believe Corey and his team can't do it.
If they are successful, the as-yet-unnamed project would provide recreational amenities and economic benefits not only for St. Lucie County, but the entire Treasure Coast region.
What they're proposing really is — if you'll pardon the pun — a game changer:
- Phase one of the project calls for six full-size soccer fields and the related infrastructure needed to support them. To accommodate younger kids playing 7-on-7 tournaments, the property could be divided into as many as 18 fields.
- Phase two would involve construction of eight full-size basketball courts, which also could be reconfigured into up to 16 volleyball courts. This phase would include numerous other amenities, including spectator seating areas around the courts, a cafeteria, an infirmary, a merchandise store, training and meeting rooms, rehabilitation and conditioning centers and possibly a hotel to serve out-of-town visitors attending youth tournaments.
- The final phase of the project would be a 5,000- to 7,000-seat soccer stadium, plus a sports-themed charter school capable of serving up to 500 students. The stadium would be the potential home for a minor league semiprofessional soccer team. The school would have a full academic curriculum, with an emphasis on sports management, modeled after charter schools operated by Sports Leadership Arts Managementin seven Florida cities.
Leslie Olson, principal in District Planning Group, a Fort Pierce firm that will help shepherd the project through the governmental approval process, said a pre-application request is to be submitted to St. Lucie County on Friday.
"Upon construction, this project will implement the county's economic-development goals of increasing quality-of-life amenities relocating businesses seek when considering new locations, and the recently updated Parks Master Plan vision to increase recreational amenities for the community," Olson wrote in an email. "What is most exciting about this project for the community is that it implements public goals with private funding."
Corey didn't get into details with me about how the project would be financed. However, he and his partners are wisely choosing to get community input before finalizing their plans.
"We want to hear from everyone," Corey said. "We want to hear from youth sports parents. We want to hear from community leaders. ... People have a lot of questions. We want to be an open book."
Corey and Jerome Stone, the principal owner, seem to have the right pedigree to be tackling a project like this.
Corey owns Football Farm, a 25-acre complex on Leighton Farm Avenue in Palm City that serves as the headquarters for Treasure Coast United youth soccer club and other community-based youth soccer programs.
He's also the city of Miami's World Cup liaison, responsible for grassroots initiatives and community engagement for the international soccer tournament which will be returning to the United States in 2026.
Stone is a partner in a Stuart-based legal firm that specializes in sports and entertainment law. He's a former college football and track athlete who is licensed to serve as a sports agent for National Football League and National Basketball Association players.
Stone and Corey say they want to design facilities that will cater not only to young athletes, but also to their parents and other spectators.
“There are simple things that every team needs that just aren’t available at most facilities," Stone said in a news release. "My aim is to create an environment that gives the young athletes the full experience of sport while being considerate of team and parent needs."
For example, Corey said, the complex would have numbered fields, making it easier for athletes and parents to orient themselves, and areas for bus parking to accommodate traveling teams. Other family-friendly perks would include a lounge area for parents and an arcade for kids.
Assuming the project is successful, the potential economic benefits are obvious. Regional youth tournaments would bring out-of-town visitors who would spend money in the community. As Olson mentioned, the complex would be an amenity that could entice businesses to relocate to the area.
And even though minor league soccer teams have come and gone on the Treasure Coast, I believe there are a substantial number of fans (myself included) who would like to have that form of entertainment here.
Credit Rick Hatcher and Ryan Strickland, executives at Play Treasure Coast Sports Tourism, formerly the Treasure Coast Sports Commission, for encouraging Stone and Corey to bring their vision to life.
"It's a needed venue that will be able to serve the Treasure Coast and outlying regions," Hatcher said. "We see a very strong future for a project like this."
So can this development group actually bring this project to reality? I can't say for sure.
Here's what I believe: They have a very good and innovative plan. They're hoping to get community input to make it an even better plan.
In other words, I'd say they've put their best foot forward.
This column reflects the opinion of Blake Fontenay. Contact him via email at