By Mike Cohen

 

WESLEY CHAPEL, FLORIDA – Some 25 years ago I was part of a press tour to Tampa. Our group was hosted at spectacular place called the Saddlebrook Resort (www.saddlebrook.com) in the suburb of Wesley Chapel – a half hour drive from downtown Tampa. I could not believe my good fortune when I was given the keys to my own private town house condominium.

 

I never forgot my experience at Saddlebrook, so when we recently set our sights on another trip to Tampa I targeted this 480 acre property for a return visit. We were fortunate to spend five nights there. The three of us booked a 950-square-foot two-bedroom suite. It included a spacious living room, separate dining area and a fully-equipped kitchen with a serving bar. The master bedroom boasts a King bed as well as a separate dressing area and elegant marble bathroom. The second bedroom is thoughtfully-appointed with a Queen bed, as well as an additional dressing area and marble bathroom. Both bedrooms offer complete privacy. These spacious two-bedroom suites also feature a private patio or balcony that is accessible from the living room. There were two in-room safes.

 

Saddlebrook formally opened in 1981, with a unique car-free Walking Village design that allows guests to easily walk throughout the resort without the need of a transportation system while providing sanctuary to nature. Thomas L. Dempsey, who was chairman and CEO of Penton Publishing, a subsidiary of the Fortune 500 Pittway Corporation, developed the resort. He envisioned a spot that would allow guests to experience a side of Florida many had never seen, an abundant wildlife that thrives because of the preservation of surrounding lakes and woodlands. The resort itself is located within a gated and secure nature preserve that is home to colorful birds such as Sandhill Cranes, Wood Storks and Great Blue Herons to Snowy Egrets and even gators, along with verdant vegetation that exists in harmony with the natural layout of the hotel grounds.

 

Dempsey purchased the resort from his employers, Pittway in 1988, and remains chairman and CEO as well as a full-time resident. Saddlebrook now operates as an independent family-owned resort in the grand style and tradition typified by the nation’s finest properties. Over the years, the resort has continued to flourish, becoming an acclaimed destination for Tampa conferences and events as well as a nationally-recognized training center for golf and tennis. In 1992, the Saddlebrook Preparatory School was founded designed to offer student athletes a comprehensive educational experience with concurrent enrollment in either the Saddlebrook Tennis Program or Saddlebrook Golf Academy. Saddlebrook Prep is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Florida Council of Independent Schools.

 

Saddlebrook Resort is a certified Florida Green Lodging property. As you walk, jog, or bike along pathways of this eco-friendly Tampa Bay resort, be sure to take in the tropical landscaping and views that surrounds the property.

 

During your stay, you may catch a glimpse of the area’s colorful wildlife, which includes an array of birds from Sandhill Cranes, Wood Storks and Great Blue Herons to Snowy Egrets, and wildlife, even alligators. Fragrant flowers compliment the swaying palms and stately cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss beckoning guests to explore and convene with the elements.

 

Saddlebrook recently completed a nearly $2 million renovation on its signature Arnold Palmer-designed golf course, which included the addition of an advanced irrigation system. This computer-controlled system uses only a fraction of the water required by a typical Florida golf course.

 

The resort’s eco-friendly laundry facility features an extremely high temperature wash cycle and use only mild biodegradable detergents in all of our processes.

 

Saddlebrook maintains some exceptionally beautiful natural corridors, which not only enhance the guests’ enjoyment, but serves to protect several plant and animal species indigenous to the area. This includes the Great Egret and the Bald Cypress Tree, two key endangered species of flora and fauna that are fighting for a place in the local wetland ecosystem.

 

With over 40 percent of electrical energy consumption associated with climate control, Saddlebrook has installed active climate control systems in guest rooms and meeting facilities. The conference center is computer-controlled to cool only the rooms that need it, at exactly the right levels. Similarly, when guest rooms are unoccupied, thermostats are turned down to a predetermined setting, which keeps the room fresh, but does not cool excessively.

 

When it comes to guest room transportation, resort maintenance and golf course use, the majority of the carts in the Saddlebrook fleet run on rechargeable electric batteries. Not only is this better for the environment, but also results in less noise pollution so you can fully enjoy your resort experience. By using a model of central parking and providing bus transportation for team members, it is calculated that on average about 200 miles per day of cars being driven on the open roads is saved.

 

This Florida hotel and conference center is completely self-contained, with restaurants, spa, golf, tennis, fitness facilities, three pools and an outdoor team building course all on-site.

 

The restaurants at Saddlebrook offer both fine and casual award-wining dining served by our signature hospitality. Whether you are entertaining executives at Dempsey’s Steak House, enjoying a post-game lunch while overlooking the 18th green at, or enjoying a fresh breakfast with the family at Tropic’s Restaurant, options are sure to delight every palate. The hotel also offers In-Room dining services 24 hours a day.

 

Regarded as one of the best steak houses in the country, Dempsey’s serves prime beef and fresh seafood in traditional setting. Enjoy a hearty Aged Porterhouse, Bone-In Filet Mignon, or market fresh seafood including Colossal Shrimp or Pan Seared Wild Salmon. Don’t forget to try our famous table-side Caesar Salad.

 

When you need to clear your mind and rejuvenate your senses, treat yourself to a day of pure pampering at The Spa at Saddlebrook. This 7,000-square-foot European-style spa has 12 treatment rooms, separate men’s and women’s dressing rooms, each with a steam room. Sauna, and whirlpools feature a full menu of spa and salon services as well as whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms, and a courtyard terrace for lounging, sunbathing and dining. The professionally trained and licensed practitioners at the spa are skilled in a variety of therapies including traditional Ashiatsu, and as massage techniques ranging from sports recovery to reflexology and hot stone treatments.

 

In addition to the world-class golf courses and tennis courts, the fitness facilities at Saddlebrook cater to every interest and skill level. The Sports Village features grass and sand volleyball courts, a regulation-size basketball court and a Field Turf sports field. The refreshing waters of the 500,000-gallon free-form Superpool are a highlight of any stay. There are two additional pools at the resort, including the adults-only Serenity Pool.

 

Bicycle rentals and fishing poles are available at The Swim Shop, and the resort also offers a variety of scheduled activities from morning power walks and group fitness classes to poolside games. Families visiting the resort can take advantage of S’Kids Club, a fun-filled program for guests.

 

To reserve your stay today at Saddlebrook Resort or contact a Reservations Agent toll-free at 800.729.8383 or locally at 813.907.4401. You might enjoy the place so much you will consider buying a unit. The sales office is located right next to the registration center.

 

All accessible units are equipped with ramp access, wider doorways, grab bars, roll-in showers, lower shower heads, lowered clothes rail in closets, chairs for bathing and toilets, visual smoke detectors and available TDD telephones. There are reserved accessible parking spaces and golf cart service to take you anywhere on the property. There are no less than nine handicapped accessible washrooms on the vast property. At the spa there is a service elevator and a ramp to the treatment area. A ramp also exists in the main lobby next to the registration desk leading to Tropics and Dempsey’s Too restaurants. Outdoors, there is a lift for one of the Jacuzzis.

 

SHOPPING NEARBY Located just 10 minutes from the resort, The Shops at Wiregrass is an open-air village with 800,000 square feet of retail, dining and entertainment options. Stroll through well-known department stores like Macy’s, as well as over 100 specialty and designer shops in this pedestrian-friendly destination. Five minutes from The Shops at Wiregrass the new Tampa Premium Outlet Mall is anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th, plus 110 shops including Calvin Klein, Coach, J. Crew, Michael Kors, Polo Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. Thirty minutes away, International Plaza and Bay Street is home to Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Tiffany’s and nearly 200 specialty stores as well as “Only at Bay Street,” an open-air village with unique restaurants and boutiques. We went to this locale a number of times and really enjoyed the experience. The entire facility is very accessible for wheelchairs.

 

JEWISH COMMUNITY

On September 11, 2011, following years of meeting in hotel conference rooms, and composing services in the living rooms of each other’s homes, the Jewish community in Wesley Chapel (and northern New Tampa) opened a synagogue of its own. The Chabad Jewish Centre at Wiregrass opened its doors under the spiritual leadership of Rabbi Mendi Yarmush. It is located at 2124 Ashley Oaks Circle. Each year is filled with dynamic events and exceptional programming to make Judaism an accessible reality for all Jews regardless of background or affiliation. “No matter how you see yourself, at Chabad we see you as Jewish,” their website states. “No labels. No differences. At Chabad you are family. You will find the atmosphere casual, the service traditional, and mood uplifting. Our community is a budding family and our motto is Jewish. Done Joyfully!

 

Rabbi Yarmush was born and raised in Toronto. He studied in rabbinical schools in Toronto, New York and Los Angeles. After completing his studies, he was ordained by leading Rabbis from the US and Canada in 2005. As an intern Rabbi, he provided educational programs and holiday events for Jewish communities throughout the USA, Australia and China. He Organized and Directed Passover Seders and other Jewish rituals and study groups in Australia, Russia and Cuba, as well as directing Jewish children’s overnight camps in Morristown NJ, Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona. Rebbetzin Chanie Yarmush born and raised in Tampa, where she studied at the Hebrew Academy until high school, after which she left to study at the Beth Rivkah Academy in Brooklyn, New York, a school specializing in developing future educators. After graduating high school she travelled to Melbourne, Australia where she studied and graduated with a teacher’s degree majoring in Judaic Studies.As youth Director for Chabad of Tampa Bay, she directed Camp Gan Israel, as well as implementing many successful programs such as Chai Five and Bat Mitzva Club for the Jewish community. In addition, Chanie taught at the Hebrew Academy in Tampa, as well as in Schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan, New York. Rabbi Mendy and Chanie are the proud parents of six children.