Sun-N-Fun, the huge RV resort in Sarasota, Fla., annually draws camping fans from up north anxious to escape the brutal winter weather.
According to a report in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, more than 1,500 Midwestern and Canadian snowbirds visit the park each winter. The facility offers everything from tennis and golf — well, disc golf — to swimming and volleyball, shuffleboard and lawn bowling.
Now the two-time “Mega-Resort of the Year” is about to open a $5.5 million indoor pool and health club.
“We’re looking forward to the gym,” said JoAnn Boehlke of Ontario. “They’ve got something for everyone.”
Boehlke is a 63-year-old retiree, which people find hard to believe, because she looks like a 43-year-old gymnast. She used to play volleyball and tennis — she won a Florida Senior Games singles title — but a rotator cuff injury sent her to the pool.
“Now I’m up to swimming half a mile,” she says, “and doing water aerobics.”
Besides outdoor recreation, Sun-N-Fun offers clubs, games and hobbies. The resort meeting hall hosts classes, dances and variety shows.
Without leaving the park, residents can visit a day spa while getting their pet groomed and their car detailed.
Sun-N-Fun doesn’t look like a mega-resort, though.
It feels more folksy, with gray-haired couples walking their dogs or riding their bikes along narrow lanes. The 52-year-old park is shaded by an “Old Florida” mix of large oaks, tall pines and thin palms. Cart paths wind along a canal and lake.
Residents dress up their trailers and recreational vehicles with Christmas decorations. The rest of the year, it’s Canadian flags and Big Ten football banners for Michigan and Ohio State.
In the last decade, general manager Tim Deputy has seen the park’s median age drop from 72 to less than 65.
“The Baby Boomers have taken over,” he said, laughing. “They like new, they like nice and they like to stay busy. Lots of them live like this is their job now. They’re out there, Monday through Friday, doing sports or activities all day long.”
Sun-N-Fun, owned by an English resort company, is upscale. A nine-month trailer site rental goes for $7,200.
On a chilly December morning, with the temperature climbing out of the 40s, shuffleboarders gathered for their daily game. Even the Canadians wore two and three layers of fleece to keep warm.
Tennis players hit the courts, too, but the sand volleyball courts were deserted.
“You know it’s bad,” Deputy joked, “when the volleyball players aren’t out.”
As the sun rose in a clear blue sky, Sun-N-Fun came to life.
Lawn bowlers gathered on a square of green. A few hardy swimmers exercised in the outdoor pool.
Just across a fence loomed the curving roof line of the new indoor pool. It’s almost full of water now. Workers are finishing rooms and completing the landscaping.
“It sets us so far apart from anyone else in the camping industry,” he said. “It’s like having a club right here.”