Originally published by Garrett Shiflet, Villages Daily Sun
Sawgrass Grove came alive throughout 2022, quickly becoming a new hot spot in The Villages. The area is a new kind of gathering spot, bringing together live entertainment, a bustling market and restaurant, and recreation and golf amenities in one location and its opening was one of the highlights of the year. Plenty of opening celebrations — from recreation centers to restaurants — took place in all corners of the community. Villagers could enjoy new recreation amenities, such as astronomy pads at Homestead Recreation and kayaking at Lake Okahumpka Recreation. Also new were amenities planned and constructed by resident committees, such as First Responders Recreation and the Blake Lake Walking Path. Here is a snapshot of what premiered in 2022 and a look at some of what is to come in 2023.
The year opened with the debut of several new amenities. Clifton Cove Putting Course celebrated its grand opening as the first amenity to open at Sawgrass Grove in 2022, joining Ezell Recreation and Southern Oaks Golf Club. Clifton Cove became the second 18-hole putting course in The Villages, adding to the short-course golf options in the community. Later in the month, Homestead Recreation opened in the Village of Citrus Grove. It features six astronomy pads so residents can get a better view of the stars. “It’s a great setup and it will be an excellent resource for astronomers,” said The Villages Astronomy Club President Mark Graybill, of the Village of Liberty Park. It also brought a seventh dog park to the community as well as a boardwalk nature trail.
The next major addition at Sawgrass Grove opened in early summer with McGrady’s Pub. McGrady’s menu features authentic Scottish fare. Among the highlights at the bar is a large selection of Scotch whisky and the popular Mug Club program. Customers can savor dishes to the tune of local performers on the patio from 3 to 5 p.m. several days weekly. Other restaurants opened this month in the community including The Back Porch at Mulberry Grove Plaza and McDonald’s at Magnolia Plaza.
Later in the summer, The Market at Sawgrass Grove provided a wide variety of dining options. The indoor market includes the Southern Oaks Golf Pro Shop and several dining establishments, such as Darlin’s Sweet Shoppe, Golden Hills Coffee Roasters, Little Fin Seafood Shack, Willy’s Original Smashburgers, Frenchy’s Wood Fired Pizza and Sawgrass Bar. Also inside is The Villages Grown and The Butcher & Market. At the north end of The Villages, First Responders Recreation opened near the Village of Calumet Grove. It was designed as a tribute to first responders with hundreds of items donated by residents who dedicated their lives to serving their communities. Several outdoor amenities previously were unavailable north of County Road 466, such as the 18-hole Stars & Stripes Putting Course, platform tennis courts, a resort-style pool and fire pit.
Villagers flocked to the opening of Sawgrass Grove’s outdoor entertainment area. The debut of the Box Car Stage and Grove Bar represented the official opening of the complete Sawgrass Grove vision. The area includes shade structures designed to look like orange trees that cover the dance floor. Later in the month, the second pitch and putt golf course in The Villages opened in the Village of Richmond. Richmond Pitch & Putt features 18 holes ranging from about 40 to 110 yards — making it perfect for short-game play. Also in October, the Black Lake Walking Path’s scenic 1.5-mile loop also opened near Lake Miona Recreation.
Lake Okahumpka Recreation opened in the Village of St. Johns, with a lakeside cottage feel. The area features kayaking, a nature trail and waterfront boardwalk so residents can take in the natural beauty of the lake. A restaurant, Harry and the Natives, will be coming to the recreation center in 2023. Also in November, popular restaurateur Fred Karimipour’s Fresh Made Kitchen Group opened Coast Del Mar Seafood Grill at Spanish Springs Town Square. It was FMK’s ninth restaurant in The Villages and its first at the original town center. Earlier in the year, FMK also opened Harvest Restaurant & Bar at Brownwood Paddock Square.
Richmond Recreation and Clarendon Recreation both opened in the Village of Richmond on the same day. The two locations mark the final amenity openings in 2022, but they have already become popular additions. Richmond Recreation includes the community’s eighth dog park, giving The Villages more per capita than any other city in Florida per capita. It also has an adult pool, bocce, corn toss and shuffleboard. Clarendon Recreation provides, plenty of outdoor activities such as pickleball, tennis, sand volleyball, beach tennis, shuffleboard, pedestrian paths, outdoor exercise equipment and a resort-style family pool. Other recreation amenities opened in 2022 in the villages of Cason Hammock, St. Johns and DeLuna.
Coming in 2023
The Villages Charter School’s South Campus will open its doors in the fall of 2023 to students from kindergarten to 12th grade. The state-of-the-art facilities at the new campus for The Villages High School and a second K-8th grade campus will bring the latest in technology, academics, arts, sciences and athletics. The Villages Early Learning Company will also have a new facility in Middleton, which will host a pre-kindergarten program. The schools will be at the heart of the new family neighborhood, Middleton, which will be a separate community with its own amenities adjacent to The Villages. When complete, Middleton CDD A will include about 2,480 acres and up to 8,280 homes, with a mix of housing types, designs and models.
Construction will pick up in 2023 at Eastport. The new town center will combine elements of a traditional town square — such as shopping, dining and entertainment — with recreation amenities and golf. It will sit alongside Central Lake, which will be large enough to host major dragon boat events. Among announced highlights are a lakefront hotel, a waterfront entertainment area with a stage and outdoor bars, a food truck area on Sunset Island and alleys that will have a European feel. Eastport also will be home to Olympia Recreation with an indoor gymnasium for pickleball, basketball, volleyball, badminton and even a rock climbing wall. Outdoor amenities will include a softball complex, dog park and a nine-hole executive golf course with a driving range and teaching academy.
New recreation and golf amenities in the villages of Newell and Lake Denham are coming in early 2023. New short-course golf options will include Mickylee Pitch & Putt and Jubilee Putting Course, which are expected to open soon. Nearby will be Franklin Recreation, which will feature a resort-style pool, pickleball, tennis, shuffleboard and bocce. Plans have also been announced for Dabney and Salukis recreation. Future golf plans include Shallow Creek Country Club, which will be home to an 18-hole championship golf course in the villages of Moultrie Creek and Shady Brook. The Villages also announced plans for two more championship golf clubs south of Florida’s Turnpike: Woodlands (18 holes) and Meadow View (27 holes). Other announced courses include Laurel Oak and Belleair executive golf courses and Live Oak Pitch & Putt.