Polk County Developments

Local developer to open Ronaldo Soccer Academy franchise in Haines City

Feltrim Group CEO Gary Kenny and Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldo are bringing a Ronaldo R9 Soccer Academy franchise to Polk County.

Vacation home developer Garrett Kenny plans to bring a Ronaldo Soccer Academy to Haines City.

Kenny, CEO of Feltrim Group, told GrowthSpotter on Friday he bought one of five R9 Academy franchises slated for the Florida market. It would be the second franchise in Central Florida.


"We're going to build an international field and three training fields," he said. "We're going to be able to host soccer tournaments with the other R9 academies."

GrowthSpotter reported last December on plans for an R9 academy in Orlando at 3516 President Barack Obama Parkway. Welbro Building Corp. opened bidding this week for the four-field complex that includes a 4,560-square-foot clubhouse building.


Two more are planned in South Florida -- in Broward County at Sawgrass. The company also plans to open an academy in the Jacksonville area and expand up the East Coast to Atlanta, Virginia, Boston and the Tri-state area.

The Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo Nazario, who won two FIFA World Cups and was named FIFA World player of the year three times, has opened academies in his home country and plans to open 30 in China.

Kenny said the Haines City franchise will be built on property he controls that's adjacent to a new 250-home vacation resort, Balmoral at Waters Edge, on U.S. 27 just south of the Highway 17 interchange.

The typical upfront investment for a R9 flagship academy is $360,000 plus the cost of land. Kenny said his costs will be upwards of $1 million. His construction cost will increase if he opts for artificial turf, which lasts longer than grass and costs less to maintain.

Feltrim last year completed the Fountains at ChampionsGate, an 80-unit vacation home townhouse development that was sold primarily to Chinese and British investors.

"At our Fountains project, we've got 75 kids coming from Brazil in July for soccer," he said. "They're going to be taking English classes, too. So that's the other thing we're going to have at the R9 Academy is a small classroom for the kids. That's a requirement for all the franchisees."

The Four Corners area is quickly becoming a hotbed for youth and professional soccer. The ChampionsGate Sports Field Complex has hosted Canadian and MLS teams for preseason training and will be the home base for two Copa America teams.

This year, Osceola County will expand its Austin-Tindall Regional Park by adding more FIFA-standard soccer fields and a 2,000-seat stadium.


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