Largest rec complex ready for big debut

Everglades Recreation Complex, with a 32,000-square-foot recreation center, will be The Villages’ largest recreation amenity. The recreation center has meeting rooms, a theater and a sales-and-information office.

Soon the word Everglades will evoke images of more than just its vast untamed wilderness. It will describe The Villages Developer’s newest and largest recreation amenity, Everglades Recreation Complex, when it opens Nov. 8 adjacent to Florida’s Turnpike and north of Warm Springs Avenue in the Village of Marsh Bend. The centerpiece of this 50-acre facility, Everglades Recreation Center, promises to inspire residents with interior design elements that project the image of an Old Florida rustic lodge, said Tracy Morse, The Villages vice president of design. One star feature: photographs of the Everglades taken on commission by Frank Lee Ruggles, the former official photographer for the U.S. National Park Service will be showcased throughout the center.

“Ironically, he had never photographed the Everglades,” Morse said. “We’ll have an amazing collection here.”

This complex follows The Villages’ vision to incorporate its properties into the community’s natural beauty, said Mike Pape, The Villages landscape architect.

“I believe The Villages does this better than anyone else,” he said.

In this instance, planning for Everglades started more than 2.5 years ago based on resident feedback, Pape said.

“The process starts with our Recreation and Parks Department determining what the residents require to make The Villages as complete as it’s always been,” he said. “Those facilities are matched to the areas to serve Villages residents in the most productive and most enjoyable way.”

In addition to the 32,000-square-foot recreation center with meeting rooms, a theater and sales-and-information center, the complex will feature a sports pool, softball fields, a multipurpose sports field, basketball, pickleball, platform tennis, bocce, shuffleboard, corn toss, a remote-control car range and a retention pond dock for remote-control boats.

“This is our largest recreation area — over 50 acres,” said John Rohan, The Villages Director of Recreation and Parks. “While the size is significant, our goal is to bring each element to life for residents to experience and capture services that will help enhance and enrich their lives for years of enjoyment.”

The complex also satisfies resident demand for more outdoor activities, Rohan said.

“We will feature a variety of outdoor facilities that could result in several new programs and activities,” he said. “Having these amenities all connected also is a first for us. Using one location that will offer so many great new amenities will allow our residents the ability to explore new ones, while still enjoying their personal favorites.”

The complex ties into the Hogeye Preserve Pathway that links to other nearby amenities such as Marsh View Pitch & Putt, Cattail Recreation Area and the beverage and food trucks at Ednas’ on The Green, Rohan said.

“There will be multiple opportunities for residents to sample the lifestyle activities inside and outside at the Everglades Recreation Complex on opening day,” he said.

All residents are invited to attend a planned expo with information about recreation and parks, The Enrichment Academy, District customer service, executive golf, trails and pathways, dog parks, fishing and more.

Residents should mark their calendars for the Nov. 8 opening, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., for a full day of activities.

“When it opens it’s gonna be game on!” Rohan said.

Senior writer David R. Corder can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5241, or