Polk County Developments

Feltrim Group moving forward with plans for Ronaldo R9 Academy in Haines City

The soccer academy and school will be located at the main entrance on U.S. 27 to Balmoral at Waters Edge, a 245-home resort in Haines City.

Feltrim Group CEO Garrett Kenny has filed construction plans for the Orlando area's second Ronaldo R9 Soccer Academy at the main entrance to his Balmoral at Water's Edge resort in Haines City.

GrowthSpotter first reported last March that Kenny had purchased one of five franchises slated for Florida from the Brazilian soccer star. He has since expanded the vision to include a private middle/high school and on-site condo tower.


Richard Greenwood, director of development for Haines City, said the permits should be forthcoming. "The Ronaldo Soccer Academy plans are in review and we do not see any significant issues to issuing the permits," he said Wednesday.

Kenny said he's scheduled to close on the 10-acre site in late January, and expects to break ground in March with a ceremony that would coincide with the grand opening of the R9 Academy in Orlando.

The resort includes a mix of vacation homes and townhomes, which could provide temporary housing for students and travel teams competitng at the R9 Academy (red star). It opens in March.

Academy Spokesman Thiago Zveiter confirmed that Ronaldo would attend both events. "We're excited," he said. "2017 is going to be a really good year for R9 here in the U.S. We've sold a number of franchises but we don't have any that are operational. Orlando will be the first, followed by Houston."

R9 Academies in Miami and Pompano Beach are also scheduled to open this year. The company has sold a fifth franchise for the Tampa Bay market (Brandon) but the site hasn't been chosen yet.

The R9 academy would have its own private school open to both international and local students. A condo tower could be added in the final phase.

For the Haines City location, Phase 1 will include one international size field, locker rooms and three practice fields. Kenny opted for artificial turf, which has a higher upfront cost but lower maintenance.

Kenny said he's in discussions with a Miami-based private school operator to run the school, which would serve up to 220 boys and girls in grades 6-12. The two-story building would have a full gym, allowing Kenny to add a basketball program. The goal would be to open in fall 2018.

"The whole idea is the international kids will be able to come, play soccer and go to school full time," he said. "We want local kids to enroll, too. I don't want to create the impression it's just for international students."

Zveiter said the Ronaldo academy is separate from the school. While each franchisee sets its own enrollment policy, most U.S. academies would serve local kids rather than recruiting international players.

Another element that makes the Haines City location unique is Kenny's long-term plan to build a condo jtower on site, with up to 60 units that would serve students and their families.

"The first priority is the soccer. The next priority is finalizing the school. Last in the equation will be the condos," Kenny said. "The reason being that we have Balmoral there. We have the units."


Located on U.S. 27 just south of Highway 17, the 115-acre gated community features a mix of townhomes, single family and estate vacation homes -- 245 homes in total. He said the community's first phase is sold out.

"We are waiting for the city to approve our infrastructure plans for Phase 2," Kenny said. "We expect to start construction in late January or early February."

The community clubhouse and pool are slated to open in mid-February and the waterpark would open a month later. The resort also has a wedding venue onsite, and Kenny said he's looking to hire a wedding coordinator to begin marketing the venue.

Feltrim will utilize the same development team, engineer Dave Schmitt and Bellavista Building Group as GC, for the soccer complex.

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