Saturday, September 3, 2016

Orlando City Soccer begins construction of a new training center in Lake Nona

Orlando City SC and Lake Nona today announced a partnership for the development of a brand new, state-of-the-art 23-acre training facility at the Lake Nona Sports & Performance District, next to the U.S. Tennis Association’s National Campus currently under construction.

The new training facility will house the Lions of Major League Soccer (MLS), Orlando City B of the United Soccer League (USL), and the Club’s Elite Youth Academy.

Construction is expected to begin immediately, with a targeted completion date in 2017. The project will be privately financed. Tavistock Development Company will develop the campus, which includes six practice pitches (two lighted) and a training facility with a training facility with a state-of-the-art fitness center, player’s clubhouse, locker rooms, film rooms, offices and an injury prevention and rehabilitation center.

Orlando City Soccer Club is proud to maintain its presence at the recently renovated Sylvan Lake Training Center in Seminole County. That facility will become the permanent training home for the National Women’s Soccer League’s (NWSL) Orlando Pride beginning in 2017.

“This development in Lake Nona is another great example of the Club’s expanding footprint, and the resulting economic benefit, throughout Central Florida,” said Club Founder and President Phil Rawlins. “It complements the construction of our new home in downtown Orlando, and provides our MLS and USL teams with a great training facility also featuring a host of synergistic amenities in Lake Nona. We are thankful for this partnership with Tavistock and Lake Nona, who have been longtime supporters of Orlando City and the sport of soccer, and we look forward to a successful, championship future together.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Northern girl craving some hardshell action? Crabby Bill's is just down the road.

As a born and raised New Englander I've had a hard time finding hard shell clams, oysters and shellfish in the Lake Nona area. Yeah, I know, there are lots of places which feature shellfish on the menu, but none that focus on shellfish.

But we are restaurant savvy, "food groupies" you might say, and tend to dine out 4-6 nights a week. Looking for variety which might include a shellfish oriented menu has been nearly impossible. So I started asking locals where to go outside of the Narcoossee Road eateries. One answer kept coming up, over and over again; Crabby Bill's. Okay.

Okay by me but my husband had a few hesitations. First he said, "I'm not going to a place I don't know how to get to." (Google it...) Anyway, I knew that desperation would force me to find Crabby Bill's on my own, and it did. I took a drive today down Narcoossee Road, into St.Cloud to find Crabby Bill's.

It was about a 15 minute drive from Lake Nona and located in a charming, lake-front neighborhood. I knew right away that this could be the place that I was looking for! Casual and family friendly, Crabby Bill's had an extensive seafood menu, specializing in oysters, lobster, crab and clams. They have fresh grouper, mahi-mahi and snapper on the dinner menu, along with fish tacos and sandwiches for lighter fare. And of course, they have alligator bites!

Crabby Bill's has an outstanding children's menu, a healthy gluten-free menu and many, many special cocktails to enjoy while you sit outside and enjoy the lake front view. You can also find Crabby Bill's on Facebook; and also in Clearwater if you are in the mood for a road trip.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Florida Ranks Number One for Retirement

In case it wasn't obvious, people like to retire in Florida,

A recent study from financial website WalletHub shows that the Sunshine State ranks No. 1 in the U.S. for states to retire in, again. Various aspects — life expectancy, the 65-plus population in the area, etc. — were analyzed when looking at what makes a location favorable for this particular demographic.

Stereotypical "elder activities" were taken into account as well, such as the amount of golf courses and museums per capita.

This placement should come as no surprise, given that Florida had four cities in the top 10 list when WalletHub ranked U.S. cities for retirement in 2014.

Although Florida can hold its metaphorical head high, its overall ranking doesn't mean that it achieved top marks in every subcategory. The "affordability" and "quality of life" rank were at No. 2 and No. 3 respectively, but "health care" was all the way down at No. 15.

Despite the mixed ratings in the subcategories, Florida is still better off than Rhode Island, which placed dead last.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Barbecue in Orlando? The Best of All Styles

When I think of barbecue I think Memphis, the Carolinas, maybe Texas, but really not Florida. Yet Orlando has become a mecca, or at least a melting pot for barbecue lovers. Think of it like this, all of those unique styles of BBQ trickled down to the deep south of Florida. So we got it all.

To figure out the Orlando BBQ scene is a heady experience. There are so many, so good. If I've left one out please be sure to send me a note and I will surely include it next time;

4Rivers 18hour Smoked Angus Brisket
4Rivers Smokehouse -  Brisket, ribs,
pulled pork and smoked turkey are a few of their signature items. It gets crowded but no one seems to mind waiting, you're welcome to opt for take-out instead. Barbecue's not a neat cuisine and even 4Rivers' sandwich The Messy Pig with two layers of slaw, pushes the envelope. Some fans swear by the desserts, as well, if you've got a sweet tooth, they are Southern-inspired and sinful.  Order-to-go  (407-474-8377)

Ellie Lou's Brews & BBQ - Ellie Lou's web site promises they'll "rub you the right way," and it appears they're holding up their end of the bargain. With offerings like the Pork & Bleu (chopped pork with EL's signature bleu cheese cole slaw), classics including fried green tomatoes and cheddar grits along with delicious dry-rubbed ribs -- you choose your sauce -- this is a family-friendly haven with a place in its heart for beer lovers. Start your little brew-masters young with a root beer; they've got it on tap.  Order-to-go  (407-347-9515)

Harry & Larry's Bar-B-Que - There's just something about beef brisket and slaw that gets the mouth watering. Or maybe you're a rib aficionado. Or have a thing for smoked turkey. The beauty of Southern barbecue is that you don't really have to choose. Just get a multi-meat plate and dig the H in. One taste of Harry & Larry's wares and you're transported back to that last roadside smoker you hit up on your way from somewhere to someplace else and the only thing you remember is trying to get one more taste of the sauce out from under your nails before resorting to that old Wet-Nap in your glove compartment. Brisket, ribs, sausage and turkey beckon. Stop in for a slab or buy it by the pound and haul it home and become the hero of dinner.  Order-to-go  (407-614-5950)

Pig Floyd's BBQ
Pig Floyd's Urban Barbakoa - Pig Floyd's ideally sits amid a multicultural stretch of Mills. With Caribbean, Latin and Asian culinary influences finding its way into the menu, PF's allows lovers of traditional Southern Q and those with a hankering for flavors from far-flung places to have fun sampling the menu. Here you'll find the surprise of soy, citrus and curry along with the sweet, smoky profiles you'd expect. Succulent pork belly, tender brisket and pulled share the bill with an array of street tacos, BBQ banh mi and other intriguing selections.  Order-to-go  (407-921-1696)

Porkie's Original BBQ -  Porkie's is a casual, friendly, little place with a massive following they've built over the decade-plus they've been open. Slow-cooked oak- and hickory-smoked ribs are the specialty, but Porkie's burgers, chicken, steaks and hearty sandwiches have some serious proponents. Porkie's has a regular Bike Night, so you can come for the Q and stay for the show as motorcycle enthusiasts roll in for a family-friendly event that draws impressive crowds. Porkie's sauce selection ensures there's a delicious drizzle for every palate. Order-to-go  (407-880-3351)

Pig Omelette - Fat Boy's, St.Cloud
Fat Boy's Bar-B-Q - Located in St.Cloud, this venue is neither fancy nor touristy. They've been slinging quality Q on the relative cheap for almost 40 years, a sure sign they're doing something right.  Hefty slabs of wood-smoked ribs are the stars (sauce them as you like). A selection of sandwiches and classic sides from slaw to mac to barbecued beans should keep you quite sated. You can even come early, too. Fat Boys' serves breakfast in the mornings, beginning at 8 a.m. Order-to-go  (407-892-4400)

Sunday, May 1, 2016

House of Many Colors? Art Glass House Brings Whimsy and Fantasy to Lake Nona

Home construction is nothing new in Lake Nona. Last week, however, a house of a new color was built in town.  This “home” is a kaleidoscope of plexiglass designed by Brooklyn sculptor, Tom Fruin.   His latest rendering of public art stands next door to Canvas Restaurant and Market in the Laureate Park Village Center.

The glass house is the latest in Fruin’s ongoing ICON Series, which have displayed in Brooklyn, New York and across Europe.  The glass houses celebrate overlooked landmarks, taking cues from reclaimed urban design, American folk art and the spiritual qualities of stained glass.  Like the others, this house is designed to capture the sense of its intended location.

Fruin’s work is a complimentary addition for Lake Nona’s public arts endeavors.  Combined with The Beacon and Code Wall, which have already helped define the space of the Lake Nona Town Center, Fruin’s glass house adds another interactive, conceptual – and beautiful – icon to our community’s expressive landscape.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

USTA Announces Lake Nona as New Home of American Tennis

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) has announced its plans to create the new home for American tennis, a state-of-the-art facility at Lake Nona area in Orlando, Fla., that will enhance the sport at every level.  The 100-plus court tennis center, which will house the USTA’s Community Tennis and Player Development divisions, will be divided into dedicated areas that will focus on the complete tennis pathway – from the youngest players, to recreational players, to collegians, to future professional players, and to professional tour level players.  The target completion date is the fourth quarter of 2016.

 “This new home for American tennis will truly be a game-changer for our sport,” said USTA Chairman of the Board and President Dave Haggerty. “This world-class facility will be an inclusive gathering place for American tennis and will allow us to impact our sport at every level, from the grassroots to the professional ranks.”

“USTA’s expansion and creation of 154 new jobs will make Florida one of the top states for tennis in the nation, and this state-of-the-art facility will be the USTA’s first year-round outdoor facility,” said Florida Governor Rick Scott. “This new division headquarters will allow Floridians of all ages and skill set the opportunity to try their hand at tennis.”

“More than a decade ago we undertook a strategic plan for the development of the southeast sector of our City,” said City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “The selection of Orlando for the United States Tennis Association’s new divisional headquarters further enhances this area and speaks to the value of our community’s assets – a talented labor force, business friendly environment and global access via a world-class airport.”

“Lake Nona is founded on the principles of innovative collaboration and inspiring human potential,” said Rasesh Thakkar, Senior Managing Director of Tavistock Group. “This campus at Lake Nona has all of the ingredients for the beginnings of a world-class sports and human performance cluster with the USTA setting the bar.”

The USTA is partnering with Lake Nona and Tavistock Group, along with a consortium of regional and state partners, to construct a facility in a hotbed for tennis and in the nation’s top destination city.

 The complex will be located on 63-acres of land and will include:
  • Tournament and League Area – This area will include 24 clay courts and 16 hard courts. The space will include two player pavilions and a tournament administration office which will include trainer rooms, a stringer area, player lounge, public restrooms, and a check-in area. It will let the USTA deliver events like never before and will set a new functional standard for the sport.
  • Collegiate Tennis Area – This area will feature 12 hard courts and one future tournament show court, and will serve as the home of the University of Central Florida’s Men’s and Women’s Varsity Tennis Program. The courts will be equipped with high mast lighting for televised events and have elevated seating for 1,200 people with room on the north and south end for additional seating. The area will allow two collegiate matches to be played simultaneously. Additionally, it will feature a two-story pavilion for concessions, public restrooms, team locker rooms, and areas for trainers and officials.
  • Team USA Area - This area will include eight hard courts and eight clay courts. The courts will be utilized by the 17 USTA Sections, along with coaches and their players throughout the country to work collaboratively with USTA Player Development.
  • High Performance and Player Development Area – This area will include eight hard courts, eight red clay courts, and six covered courts for the USTA Player Development division. The space includes dormitories that can house 32 boys and girls. The strength and conditioning area will include a sand and workout area. In addition, the area will be utilized for Team USA Events.
  • 36/60’ Tennis – This area will include eight 36’ and eight 60’ courts enabling youth and adults to develop their games.
  • USTA Office Building – The ground floor will include a tennis pro shop, fitness area, locker rooms, player lounge, and cafeteria with USTA offices occupying the second and third floors.
  • Technology – The facility will be an epicenter for tennis innovation and education.  It will incorporate the latest technology to provide an unparalleled playing, training and educational experience for players, coaches and spectators.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Try a Drive to One of Florida's Beautiful Waterfalls and Springs

Orlandoans are lucky to have almost thirty day-trip excursions to real waterfalls and natural springs in their virtual backyard. Whether you are a nature lover, canoe aficionado, or just  looking for a bit of escape, you should give one of these a try. And since this is a great time of year for a road trip, and the price of gas couldn't be cheaper, get going!

The following is a list of many favorites within a few hours of Orlando, but my personal best is pretty close by at Blue Spring State Park. Claiming the title of the biggest spring found on the St. John’s River, this stop on the list is manatee heaven from the middle of November until the end of March. Any in-water activity is put to a halt during this time, but once the park fully reopens, attendees can enjoy some snorkeling, boating, fishing, tubing and, if you’re certified, scuba diving.

For a complete list of local areas to explore try Orlando Weekly's up to date list of the best choices, Orlando Weekly List of Springs and Waterfalls.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Renowned Artists Debut Public Art in Town Center

Lake Nona is collaborating with internationally renowned artists, JEFRË and Michael Counts on a public art project to launch in tandem with the opening of phase one of the Lake Nona Town Center, which opens this winter. Located in Orlando, Lake Nona is an 11-square-mile innovative community and one of the fastest growing master-designed communities in America, owned by Tavistock Group, an international private investment organization founded by Joe Lewis.

The technology will allow for full multimedia experiences, with music, light, video, interactive elements and performance. The Beacon is a six-story installation designed by celebrated Florida-based public artist JEFRË, and brought to life with video concepts and designs by Michael Counts, a New York-based installation designer and immersive theatre director in partnership with the 3-Legged Dog (3LD) Art and Technology Center. The art installation will be a focal point of the first phase of Lake Nona Town Center. 

The Beacon is a 60-foot sculptural steel enclosure, inspired in part by the first Stethoscope, wrapped with high-definition video projections, creating cinematic video artwork that will bring the structure to life each night. The Beacon is hollow inside and its outer layer is composed of aluminum panels with scalloped edges. Featuring a rotating array of sculptural video concepts conceived by Michael Counts and created by a team of designers at 3LD, the look and character of the structure – as well as the overall experience at Lake Nona Town Center – will be continually evolving.

Accompanying this installation is another artwork called Code Wall, also designed by JEFRË, a 264-foot-long wall that adds an outer layer to the Lake Nona Town Center parking structure. This layer is perforated with binary code and adorned with dichroic glass panels that reflect sunlight, and choreographed LED lights. The binary code is illuminated by dynamic lighting design by Michael Counts and Ryan O’Gara. When translated, the code spells out the various missions and goals of the Lake Nona community, for example: inspire, participate and connect.

The technology and programming developed by 3LD will allow for full multimedia experiences, with music, light, video, interactive elements and performances to be created by other digital and performing artists for future presentations at Lake Nona Town Center.

The Beacon and Code Wall help fulfill our vision of making the Lake Nona Town Center a celebrated gathering place within the community,” said Lake Nona President Jim Zboril. “We are taking a parking garage – typically one of the least aesthetically pleasing visual elements of a development – and are turning it into a leading edge, technology-oriented centerpiece.”

“Being a resident of Orlando for 15 years and having completed monumental works around the world, it was an honor to finally create a postcard moment and destination for Lake Nona and Orlando.” said JEFRË. “Over 62 million visitors come to Orlando each year and possibly their first and last view, as they fly in and out of Orlando International Airport, will be of The Beacon at Lake Nona.”

“I’m thrilled to be collaborating with JEFRË and the incredible team at Lake Nona on such a forward thinking public art project. Creative and technological opportunities that push the envelope, as this project will, are rare in my experience. I have no doubt that this artwork will have resonance throughout Orlando and well beyond and will be a piece with enduring significance,” said Michael Counts.

 The Beacon is part of Lake Nona’s Town Center, which includes two hotels, a Marriott Courtyard & Residence Inn. The first phase of the Lake Nona Town Center, a Tavistock Development, will open this winter and will feature restaurants, an office building and two hotels, a Marriott Residence Inn and Courtyard by Marriott.  A next phase is under design expected to include additional office and restaurants, a cinema, a fitness center and retail. At build out, the Town Center will include more than one million square feet of shopping and entertainment options contiguous to Lake Nona Medical City.