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Bullfrog Creek project continues to grow

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The site plan for the project has changed some since originally run in The Observer News Aug. 30, 2010 because new partners have signed onto the venture. Since more deals are pending, the partners have not yet submitted the final site plan to Hillsborough County. “We’re still a moving train,” said developer Rich Mozdzer. “We’ll be in flux until everyone has signed on because there’s no sense in having something approved and then having to change it.”

Developers say 800 jobs a conservative estimate



GIBSONTON- Feb. 10 I was treated to a tour of the 123-acre Gibsonton property soon to be home of Freedom Harbor, a combination medical facility, vacation spot and “cathedral of sports.”

During the tour, I was shown the various areas where the ice rinks, training academy, medical facility, hotel, restaurants and main sports arenas would be. It was also explained to me why the partners refer to the sports portion of the project as a “cathedral of sports.”

The developer spearheading the project, Rich Mozdzer, also took the time to explain why some of the locations I was being shown had changed since I did the last news story on the $150 million project in August.

“We haven’t submitted a final site plan to the county yet because we’re still a moving train,” Mozdzer said. “As new partners come on board, they bring wonderful ideas in their areas of expertise and we move things around.”

First announced in The Observer News April 17, 2008 the project has been in flux as new partners continually come on board. When a follow-up story was published Aug. 30, 2010, it was announced that once completed, Freedom Harbor would be the new home of the Suncoast Sports Festival now held at the Florida Fairgrounds and the project would be home to famous names in hockey, figure skating and tennis.

Since those stories were written, many new things have been solidified that readers need to know.

Still key in the plan is the five-story centrally-located building Mozdzer calls the “cathedral of sports” that will include an ice-rink that can be covered with a wood floor in the center of a 4,000-seat auditorium; a 350-person banquet hall; a 400-meter track over a portion of the 70-acre lake; and an academy and dormatories for students who travel for training in sports competitions, including the Olympics.

All this, and more, is still on the plan.

Judith Long of the Trion Group & Associates LLC in Sun City Center is working on obtaining $100 million of the $150 million needed to finance the Freedom Harbor’s Bullfrog Creek venture.
Now, however, developers have partnered with many new people and entities.

James Grant of Velocity Sports, trainers of professional athletes, will be opening a training center there; Suncoast Gymnastics Academy has signed on to train gymnasts; and Freedom Harbor has partnered with RCI Group, a division of Wyndham Worldwide, based in Orlando, for timeshare vacation homes.

Some plans previously announced – including a Snow Village where people can play in newly-made clean snow 365 days a year, and a health club and sports-oriented shops and a food court- have remained the same.

But other new developments have caused the site plan to change.

“We’re putting the arena on the opposite side of the property now, so that people in the vacation homes can look out at tennis and ice-skating. We’re moving the medical facility over by the main building, and we may even connect the two,” Mozdzer said.

This medical facility, which will have experts in sports medicine as key players, has been part of the plan since the beginning. Now, however, EmCyte Global Biologics, a Ft. Meyers research company, will be practicing there.

EmCyte specializes in research and treatment using a person’s own stem cells, obtained from the blood plasma, for fast nonsurgical healing of conditions like golfer’s and tennis elbow, hip arthritis, tendonitis, and painful rotator cuffs. This is not the controversial “fetal” stem cell research, but adult cells that cannot be rejected because they come from a person’s own body, according to Dr. Ronald Gardner, who explains the techniques in detail at http://vimeo.com/19222509.

Michael Nemec, Debbie Reynolds and Rich Mozdzer, partners in the Freedom Harbor project on 123-acres of land on Bullfrog Creek Road between Old Big Bend and Symmes roads in Gibsonton, pause for a moment after driving around the site.
People who want more information about these techniques, or who want to discuss specific situations after viewing the video, may call (239) 481-7725.

Instead of waiting until the facility is built, doctors are planning to open a facility in South County and begin building their clientele soon.

Also new in the plans is the addition of a fifth restaurant, said partner Debbie Reynolds. “Instead of the original four restaurants on the drawing board, now there are five,” she explained. “Two will be located on the ground floor of the main building, there will be another one upstairs, and also (a restaurant) in the private club on the top floor. But a new free-standing restaurant will be right over there,” Reynolds said, pointing near the lake’s edge to a large oak tree on the southeast side of the property. “It will be positioned to overlook the sports taking place out on the lake.”

Zip-lining, water skiing and what developers believe to be the nation’s only “track over water” will be in full view, she said.

Meanwhile, Michael Nemec, a six-time Austrian figure skating champion, has come on board as a full partner.

Nemec, who helped show me where all the building are currently located on the site plan, said he had come to the United States originally with Disney on Ice, and skated with them since 1983. “I’m still on good terms with them,” he said.

But now Nemec doesn’t just skate, he is going to be in charge of putting all the pieces together for the ice skating programs and rinks.

Stan Neckar, former NHL player, and Stanley Cup winner with the Tampa Bay Lightning, will take care of the hockey academy, Nemec said.  

A private academy with dorms for serious sports competitors in grades 9 through 12 will also be housed on the premises, offering both private and semi-private rooms and a full schedule of training and schooling.

While once there was an assisted living facility on the plan with the medical facility, that portion of the site has been put on hold.

However, offices are now on the plan.

“What a great atmosphere to work, where you can just leave your office and go to a health club, meet your family for dinner, or walk on the nature trails along Bullfrog Creek,” Mozdzer said as he pulled his SUV up to the creek at the east end of the property. “The lake was already here, formed from the borrow pit when the State dug the dirt for (the renovation of) Interstate 275. The oaks and other trees will stay in place.”

About 70 percent of the tenants are already on board, Mozdzer said.

After reading the story in The Observer News in August 2010, Judith Long, a Sun City Center resident who works with the Trion Group to raise funds for both large projects and nonprofit organizations, became involved.

“She’s making it happen,” Mozdzer said.

Long said she is finding $100 million of the financing from private sources. Right now, an international company based in Oregon is looking to finance a good portion of that, but negotiations have not yet been finalized so it cannot be named..

The partners already have the first $50 million locked in, Mozdzer said.

“A conservative estimate of jobs that will be opened for local residents is between 600 and 800,” Reynolds said. “There may be more depending on who else signs on.”

A hotel, which is another new addition to the project since the August 2010 news story, will be attached to the sportsplex. It will also provide jobs and area schools will also be able to utilize the Olympic-sized pool for swim teams.

For more information, check out www.FreedomHarborlive.com or call Mozdzer at (727) 409-0253.


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