Rendering: Proposed Warner University athletic facility

A rendering of the proposed athletic stadium at Warner University shows how lighting could be changed to orange when Lake Wales High School athletes hosted events there.

LAKE WALES – On May 18, the Lake Wales City Commission voted to spend around $42,000, in part, to study the cost and economic impact of building a new athletic facility at Warner University.

Warner University President Dr. David A. Hoag and Lake Wales Charter Schools Superintendent Dr. Jesse Jackson had been scheduled to meet April 13 to discuss the possibility of building a facility at Warner University which teams from Lake Wales High School, the university and possibly even students from other schools could compete.

The meeting, postponed due to the pandemic, has not been rescheduled due to health concerns — but Hoag and Jackson both said communication through other means has been ongoing.

“We all have interest, but we are just trying to find a way to financially make that happen,” Hoag said.

Jackson said Hoag “has laid out an extraordinary vision.”

“The facility would be a tremendous asset to the entire community,” Jackson said.

If built as proposed, the complex would feature a grandstand with lighting that could change depending on which team is playing a home game there — orange for LWHS or blue for Warner University games, for instance.

The stadium grandstand would have around 2,000 covered seats and the facility would also feature tennis courts and a track around the athletic field, which is planned to be an artificial turf surface.

The total cost of the facility is unknown as of yet, but should be estimated in the final report to the City of Lake Wales.

While there was no official vote on the matter, beyond approving the economic impact study, city commissioners also seemed to agree that the city could help finance the project through the bonding process.

Commissioners also appeared to agree that annexing the land, located south of the city off of all U.S. 27, may be a good idea. Currently, city limits end at Hunt Brothers Road. But City Manager Ken Fields said some city utilities already run as far south as County Road 640 at Oakley Transport — not far north from Warner University.

Fields said he did not think it would be difficult to convince land owners further south to agree to be annexed into the City of Lake Wales, given how much of that land has no waste water service beyond septic.

Hoag said if the complex is built as proposed, he would invite Polk County Public Schools to partner so that students at Frostproof Middle-Senior High School could also use the facility.

While Lake Wales City Commission members mentioned Webber International University as a possible partner in the project, Hoag said staff at the neighboring university have already invested a lot of money in a new football field at that school and that, as such, they likely would not partner in the proposed stadium.