SOUTHERN POLK COUNTY — For the several hundred guests at the grand opening of Mosaic’s Streamsong resort Friday, the biggest challenge was simply trying to figure out what it was they were looking at.
Which is why the mining giant’s president, Jim Prokopanko, offered perhaps the perfect description.
“This place, Streamsong, is not typical of anything,” he said.
Indeed. Costing perhaps as much as $100 million (Mosaic has never confirmed a price tag after initially indicating it would cost between $75 and $80 million, other than during the construction process to say it would be “north” of that figure), the resort’s 216-room lodge, 7,000-square foot spa, three restaurants, a rooftop bar and more officially opened to the public Saturday.
And for those who have asked the questions will they come, the answer is apparently yes. Bolstered by many who were visiting Streamsong while in Orlando for the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show, resort officials said Saturday night the lodge was sold out.
Mosaic’s’ man behind the dream, Executive Vice President and General Counsel Rich Mark, said the resort first came onto the radar in 2008, when the mining firm began to inventory its reclaimed phosphate mining land with an eye towards some kind of redevelopment project.
Plans for Streamsong came into focus a short while later, right when the national economy was plunging into a national recession, he recalled.
“I scoured land holdings to identify the location which in our view had the biggest opportunity to create something really special,” Mack said. “Trust me when I say there was little here at that time, except for the calming sounds of the breezes whisking through the property’s native vegetation, and the frequent sounds and sight of the wildlife. It was at that time we started to understand the largeness and uniqueness of the property, when we thought this could be the foundation of something really interesting.”
The Streamsong vision went public in November 2010, at a time when most companies had put ambitious plans on the shelf.
“To be sure, this project wasn’t exactly a slam dunk,” Mack said. “In 2008, the global financial crisis decimated the hospitality sector. One could logically ask at that time if we were crazy to proceed on a project like this. But to be successful in this project, we needed to have the courage to be different. We knew that Streamsong, with its remote but intriguing location, could not just be great, it really needed to be exceptional.”
Resort officials said they had some 7,000 job applications, and eventually hired about 300 employees to run the facility. It is located about 15 miles west of Fort Meade, which is the closest municipality.
“I can’t tell you how many people we have hired whose moms, dads, grandparents, have worked in the phosphate industry. It’s really rewarding,” he added.
Mack had his own description of the property.
“Streamsong is a decompression zone where people can simply get away for a couple of days from the stresses of our daily lives,” he said.
Interstate Hotels is the company Mosaic picked to operat the resort. The golf operations are operated by Kemper Sports, and opened a year ago to worldwide acclaim.
Interstate CEO Jim Abrahamson said there are already strong indications Streamsong will be a hit.
“At the end of the day, it’s a business, a business has to have good vitality and has to grow,” he said. “The pre-book, looking at our booking dates today, we’re well-ahead of where we ever thought we’d be. When you have a grand opening, you’re always worried about what the booking pace will be, but already we’ve seen it be enormously popular.”
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam noted that the resort’s impact will be felt on a large scale.
“The next chapter is being written, and it’s not just Polk. This is the Hardee County story, this is the Manatee County story, this is the Polk County story, this is the Hillsborough County story,” Putnam noted. “The fear that many of us have always had of what comes next after phosphate has been assuaged. Because if this is what comes next, we’re in great shape. This is a global destination. It’s exciting to know that Central Florida will continue to be connected to the land.”
Mosaic’s Vice President for Land Development and Management, Tom Sunnarborg, said Streamsong represented more than just a commercial venture.
He oversaw the construction project from the start.
“It’s the culmination of a promise that we made a few years ago at our announcement event, and at our ground- breaking at this site almost two years ago,” he recalled. “We talked about the potential of what we can do with reclaimed mining lands, how we could go above and beyond environmental sustainability, with economic sustainability. We’re so pleased to tell you and show you today that we have kept those promises and accomplished all of those objectives.”
The site, last mined in the 1960s, covers about 16,000 acres. Two 18-hole links style courses, carved out of the massive sand dunes left behind by the original mining operations, along with a pro-shop, Fifty Nine Restaurant, a bar and lounge, and 12 guest rooms opened officially last January.
Golf Week already has ranked the two courses — named Red and Blue to underscore the simplicity and minimalist nature of links golf — No. 12 and No. 14 on their list of best golf resort destinations in the United States.
The six story-lodge (the spa is on the ground level, rooftop bar Fragmentary Blue is on what would be level six, with four floors of guest rooms in-between) is home to three restaurants including SottoTerra, P205 and Fragmentary Blue.
SottoTerra features contemporary Italian cuisine like osso buco, stone oven-roasted duck breast and chicken involtini. P205 (the chemical symbol for phosphorus) offers traditional Floridian comfort foods like Apalachicola oysters, conch chowder and buttermilk fried chicken, while the rooftop has a pub-style small plates menu including sriracha glazed chicken skewers, warm blue cheese potato chips and buffalo pork rinds.
“Our mission at Streamsong is to redefine what guests, particularly golfers from all over the world, should expect from a luxury resort,” said Richard Mogensen, Streamsong’s general manager. “With the opening of the Lodge, our guests can now experience this incredible place in its entirety. From a breathtaking natural environment to luxurious accommodations, fantastic dining and incomparable guest service, Streamsong will no doubt emerge as one of the most unique destinations in the United States and the world.”
All the restaurants and golf are open to the public.
The resort is not only hoping to snag golf enthusiasts, but also attract executive meeting and conference business with its 18,000 square feet of flexible gathering space.
Other amenities include nine spa treatment rooms to go along with seven pools in the grotto-style spa, a 1.7 outdoor nature trail, shooting clays, bass fishing and an outdoor “infinity” pool.
“You won’t find another building like this lodge anywhere in the world. What an amazing piece of architecture, what an amazing piece of art. Streamsong is an excellent example of innovation at Mosaic. I could not be more thrilled or proud. What a remarkable place,” Prokopanko added calling the resort’s vision bold and audacious. “The land was unused and unnoticed for decades. Streamsong demonstrates very clearly what a visionary organization can accomplish.”