Top Five February Events in Polk

February is a full month in Polk County.

There are a ton of exciting events in our community this month. As I was glancing at my own calendar of things that I want to attend, I realized it’s really too much. So I figured ranking them would help me sort through things and maybe help you, as well.

Here’s the countdown: Continue reading

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Streamsong Resort Has Promise, But Still Seems Risky

I’m an avid golfer, but I’ll admit that I’m not totally up on the status of the resort golfing industry. That aside, I see great potential in the new Streamsong Resort, which officially opened this weekend in southwestern Polk County.

I love the premise of the course: building a world-class venue from reclaimed phosphate land. It’s a different kind of golf course than you’ll find most anywhere in the country, and it’s already received strong reviews from national outlets like Golf Digest and Golf Magazine.

The idea is that golfers with money to burn who plan golf trips will be drawn to the remote location with picturesque views, challenging golf, and eventually, a top-notch resort facility. Continue reading

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Lakeland Electric/City Charter Saga Over … For Now

Like many Lakeland residents, I was relieved Wednesday to see that the businessmen who had been reportedly pushing behind the scenes to change the city charter in regards to selling Lakeland Electric were ending their efforts.

Steve Scruggs, executive director of the Lakeland Economic Development Council, spoke during a city meeting Tuesday night and informed commissioners and those present that he and Brian Philpot and Barney Barnett would no longer seek to change the city charter.

According to The Ledger, Scruggs told commissioners, “In meeting with you over the past six months it was never our intent to hurt you or the city of Lakeland. I understand that some of you have felt at best, uncomfortable, and worst, threatened during the process.”

To read the full Ledger article, click here.

It was a somewhat surprising end to a controversy that seemed to come out of nowhere and produced very little, if any, results. Commissioners didn’t act on the idea of putting a change in the charter language on the ballot so that residents could vote to change it. As of now, the charter requires 66 percent of Lakeland’s registered voters to approve a sale, which is a pretty daunting task. Continue reading

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Florida Poly and USF Developing a New Normal?

I have to say I was impressed reading the brief but informative story by Mary Toothman in The Ledger today recapping a recent meeting between Florida Poly, USF, UF, and Board of Governors officials.

The gist of the article, which you can read here, is that the transition of assets from USF to Florida Poly is going to be complicated, Florida Poly needs staff and will contract with UF for help, and everyone is happy and looking forward to a great working relationship.

Mary didn’t include it in the story, but I’m assuming there was a rainbow glimmering over the building and someone playing a harp in the corner, maybe even some doves gliding through the room.

Is everyone really going to be playing this nice? Continue reading

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Lake Gibson Leads Polk in FNF Preseason Player Ranks

One of the other great features of the FNF Florida preseason magazine is all the player rankings and recruiting notes from around the state. It’s always interesting to see where Polk County athletes rank among the best in the state, and typically they fare pretty well.

For the 2012 edition, Polk players rated really high are somewhat sparse. The following four players are the only Polk seniors in the “Power 100”:

  • #72 Freddie Stevenson, LB, Bartow (6-2, 230)
  • #75 Adam Lane, RB, Winter Haven (5-7, 210)
  • #79 Kennard Swanson, DT, Lake Gibson (6-1, 265)
  • #87 Eric Carter, WR, Lake Gibson (5-10, 175)
  • Stevenson and Swanson are also the only ones from Polk ranked in the top 10 at their position, with Stevenson coming in at #9 and Swanson at #10. Stevenson has committed to Florida State, while Swanson has committed to LSU. Carter and Lane are uncommitted as of now.

    Lake Gibson also has two players in the top 50 for the class of 2014: QB Trey Congdon at #40 and S Kendall Gant at #43. So it definitely looks like Lake Gibson will have a lot of talent again, and we’ll have to see if that translates to the district standings.

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    Lakeland, Lake Wales in FNF Football Preseason Top 25

    The cover of the FNF Florida preseason football magazine for 2012.

    One of my favorite annual purchases for the past few years has been the Friday Night Football Florida preseason magazine for high school football in the state.

    There are overviews of each team in Florida, rankings, recruiting notes, predictions, etc. If

    you’re a fan of high school football, this should definitely be something you go buy. Or you can let me recap some of the highlights for you.

    Since we’re in Polk County, I figured I would keep the first post from the magazine focused on our local teams and the magazine’s predictions. So, I’ll start with the top 25 teams in the state with Polk schools in bold: Continue reading

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    Polk County High School Coaches Had Rough 2011-2012

    There are quite a few things I miss since I left The Ledger about a 18 months ago.

    I miss the people that I worked with in the newsroom and the people that I had the privilege to cover and interact with around the county. I miss the thrill of finishing a story on deadline or breaking a big news item and having it show up on the front page. I miss telling the stories of some of the incredible people who live in Polk County.

    There are also things I don’t miss, and one of those is having to cover bad news. When a coach was fired or someone was suspended or arrested, I hated having to be the guy that tries to call them and “do my job.” It’s an unfortunate part of the business.

    It’s safe to say I didn’t really miss being a reporter much during the 2011-12 high school sports year primarily because of all the bad news. Much of it revolved around coaches, as well. As much as I hate covering these stories, it was fascinating to see them unfold during the year. Continue reading

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    CSX Job Creation Numbers: Is 6,000 a Safe Estimate?

    So I got on a CSX fix over the weekend.

    The CSX/Sunrail battle of the past few years drew a lot of attention, and I tried to follow it as closely as possible. Of course, being a native of Lakeland, I have serious concerns about how much train traffic will increase through downtown with the new Intermodal Terminal being built in Winter Haven.

    At the same time, I recognize that it will bring new jobs and an increase in tax revenues to Polk County as a whole, specifically Winter Haven. But over the weekend I got curious as to just how big of an impact the site will have.

    Continue reading

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    Top 10 Polk Storylines for 2012

    I’m looking forward to 2012 as much as I have any year in my lifetime.

    A lot of that has to do with some exciting things going on in my own life, but I’m also eagerly watching things happening around our community. This year is going to be incredibly important for the future of our region, and even though I know that can be said pretty much every year, it’s definitely true for 2012.

    There were numerous important events in 2011, including Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to kill high speed rail, the USF Poly push for independence, the opening of Legoland, the FHSAA’s decision to keep state finals in Lakeland, and many more. As eventful as 2011 was, I want to look ahead.

    So, here are my top 10 things to watch in 2012 in Polk County. Some issues are carry-overs from last year, but some are new. Here we go: Continue reading

    Posted in Education, Government, Sports, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

    Anxious Times at The Ledger, News Chief With New Owners

    It’s times like this that I really don’t miss the newspaper business.

    If you haven’t already heard, the New York Times Co. has sold its Regional Media Group, which includes The Ledger and the News Chief, to Halifax Media Holdings for $143 million. The Ledger’s official story is here.

    A few years ago, I would have considered this a pretty good thing. I used to work for a private media company in West Palm Beach with the Palm Beach Post, and life was pretty good. There weren’t any shareholders to worry about, just making a profit was a pretty good thing, etc. Working for the New York Times Co. always had sort of a heavy-handed feel, with bigwigs from New York dictating what we had to do locally.

    Now, however, I’m kind of worried for what’s going to happen to The Ledger and the other regional newspapers. It’s not an apocalypse worry because I don’t think the papers are shutting down, but I’m not sure what they’ll become. Continue reading

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