Chain of Lakes Complex … Make No Little Plans

Satellite view of proposed master planning DRI

City Commissioners, staff, Chamber and Main Street representatives heard a preliminary overview of how redevelopment of the current Chain of Lakes Stadium/Southwest Complex property is likely to proceed. The City actually plans to trigger a “Development of Regional Impact” study (DRI) on a major portion (approximately 200 acres) of the community’s southwest quadrant bounded on the north by Avenue O, south by the Lake Lulu/Shipp canal, east by Park Lake/First Street South and west by Lake Shipp. Local developer Tony Binge presented the conceptual scenerio involving commercial, residential and enhanced public access to the Chain of Lakes.  City staff underscored that the plan will provide for all amenities currently found on the Chain of Lakes property including a new facility for Theatre Winter Haven, a new aquatic center and other recreational amenities. Public access to Lake Lulu and the east shore of Lake Shipp would be greatly enhanced.

The master plan being contemplated will produce land use guidelines including more inter-city in fill development of a very high quality as well as an increased emphasis on Chain of Lakes access and appreciation, connectivity to walking trails and downtown.

The information was shared during the City’s annual planning retreat where those present outlined a vision for the city both five and ten years in the future. The areas of emphasis included Economic Development, Community Neighborhoods, Lakes, Leisure, Growth and Development and City Services. The City continues to use the results of the “Our Future By Design” visioning document as a significant benchmark for planning purposes. The document was developed in 1999-2000 by a broad cross section of Winter Haven residents (approximately 200 participated throughout the process).

This entry was posted in Chain of Lakes, City of Winter Haven, Commercial Developments, Cultural Arts, Dining, Economic Development, Parks and Green Space, Real Estate, Sports, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Chain of Lakes Complex … Make No Little Plans

  1. jeff Stevens says:

    Could we possibly be any more vague about this plan? Lets see it says that we will get a theater and swimming pool with some enhancements. There will also be continued study about what to do with the property. The “Master Plan” is what?
    Could you supply any more defining possibilities or ideas that are being considered or a summary of the meetings? It just seems that after such a long period of time as well as the input of such leading organizations as City Commissioner’s Chamber, developers, there must be be more information to be shared.

  2. jim says:

    Now this is where Winter Haven should have a park…….its a safe area and could be a jewel for our City.

  3. Tim says:

    I agree with you Jim. Boat Ramps, basketball courts, soccer nets, baseball fields, a football field, and a playground would be great for our city. Unfortunately with the way Winter Haven is today it will be turned into a car dealership, some stores and condos. OH boy I can’t wait.

  4. Bob Gernert says:


    Your comment is not based in fact. Please visit our post detailing the major expansion of parks and recreational venues. You’ll find accurate information at this link:

    The City of Winter Haven is pursuing expanded community amenities more aggressively than at any time in recent memory — and my frame of reference is the past 48 years.

    And just for the record it takes stores, dealerships, real estate development and many other business ventures to maintain a healthy economy. Without jobs … good jobs –there wouldn’t be anyone to use the parks in the first place.

    If I can be of further assistance in helping you obtain accurate information about Winter Haven, please contact me at the Chamber of Commerce. All of my contact information appears at the bottom of this web page.

  5. chris says:

    I would like to see a boardwalk on Lake Lulu. Possibly something that resembles the Boardwalk at Disney, with stores on the first floor of the walk and residential/offices above. The fact is that Winter Haven has a major commodity in which to build tourism off of, the Chain of Lakes. Right now, we have some boat ramps and parks along it. The apartments up on Cypress Gardens Blvd. that seem to be falling apart are prime real estate. I would like to see a commercial / residential super-project down by Lake Lulu once the stadium is gone. There is plenty of room for park improvements and fields all over the city, especially if you build up.

  6. John says:

    This site would have been perfect for what Auburndale is doing at Lake Myrtle with the $14.2 million dollar sports complex. Too bad for Winter Haven.

  7. Jeff says:

    Just wondering if there any new updates on how the Citrus Dome and Chain of Lakes Ballpark will be used. It’s been almost a year since the announcement on this web site.
    The college games are nice but I’m sure that is not the long term answer.

  8. Bob Gernert says:

    Nothing definite has been determined with regard to this property. Current economic conditions have slowed all forms of development. The city’s intent remains to master plan a major area bounded by Avenue O, SW on the north, Chain of Lakes property on the East, Lake Shipp on the West and the Lulu Ship Canal to the south.

    RussMatt Collegiate ball has signed a 10 year contract with Polk County Sports Marketing. The tournament is generating significant economic activity for area hotels, restaurants and other merchants. Any long term solution will involve new ballfields on less valuable property.

    The Chamber intends to survey our members in early April to gauge this Spring’s tourism season as compared to past years.

  9. Thomas says:

    In a hearing before the Transportation Committee in the Florida Senate this morning, Lakeland Senator Paula Dockery offered amendments that would strip out “rail yards” from areas where accidents would be covered. Dockery said without it, Florida taxpayers “will be on the hook for accidents occuring in CSX’s rail yard which have nothing to do with commuter rail.”

    The amendment failed.

    Go to

    By the way, I’ve changed my name so people won’t get us Bob’s mixed up.

  10. David says:

    I think the city is doing a great job in the long neglected area of parks and recreation. I’m hopeful that the development of this area will include some nice outdoor space for a park. Folks on this side of town will not and should not have to drive to other areas of town for parks since we pay more than our fair share of taxes.
    Finally, Lakeland did a great job with Lakeside Village. Winter Haven sometimes seems intent on not copying Lakeland’s success in park design, planning, etc.

  11. David says:

    Continued— I somtimes wonder if it is some psychological “little brother” type complex. Posner Park is terrible and not at all pedestrian friendly. Winter Haven should should embrace good ideas no matter where they come from. Copying as much as possible from Lakeside Village would be a great start.

  12. Bob Gernert says:


    Lakeside Village was not developed by the City of Lakeland but by a private developer. Winter Haven has been approached by a number of similar developers interested in everything from the Chain of Lakes complex all the way to Lake Shipp. I have personally visited other developments with City representatives including one Orlando-based complex. A development of regional impact (DRI) is planned for that area of Winter Haven and from all efforts I have witnessed it will equal or exceed the Lakeside Village model. We have natural assets to incorporate in such planning that many communities can only dream about. I find an increasing appreciation for our lake-centered environment by city officials and residents alike.

  13. John says:

    I wish we would be the Chain of Lakes City. Currently the only way to get from one lake to another is by car.

  14. Bob Gernert says:

    Actually there are several new techniques being evaluated to deepen the canals. The canals form Summit to Eloise and parts of Winterset/Eloise are deeper. May/Howard in underway.

    In the near future Canal Commission representatives will join with Chamber and City reps to evaluate deepening canals more centrally located in the southern Chain.

    A key fact in deepening canals is the length of the aluminum sheeting in place. Some is eight feet and some is ten. Older asbestos sheeting cannot withstand deepening and will have to be replaced. It costs approximately $750 a linear foot to install new canal walls.

    It is both costly and difficult but we will work together to find the necessary resources.

    Fact: No water naturally flows into the Chain of Lakes. Only rainfall adds to their level. Appropriate dances and praying for rain are encouraged.

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