SPRING HILL — For more than four decades, the Spring Hill Community Association's Lake House has served as a vital hub for Spring Hill residents. During good times, hardly a week went by when the facility wasn't filled by a community group meeting, church service, jazz concert, wedding, wake or bar mitzvah.
But it's been a while since the facility has seen that level of activity. And that's what worries association president Ed Lawrence. Fewer rentals mean less revenue, and that has hurt efforts to properly maintain the 47-year-old facility on Kenlake Avenue.
The Lake House can accommodate about 100 people and has a kitchen large enough to prepare and serve food for that many. However, Lawrence said that two groups — Harvest Christian Church and the business networking group BNI Leaders by Design — notified him in December that they were pulling out because they had outgrown the facility. Attempts to find replacement renters have not shown much promise.
Lawrence said that he and the board are looking at several options, including leasing a portion of the 17 acres the association owns to an entity that has expressed an interesting in building a facility. Another option would be to see if the county, which operates the Little Red Schoolhouse library branch next to the Lake House, would consider taking over some of the maintenance responsibilities.
"At this point, we're willing to entertain any and all ideas," Lawrence said. "We don't want to lose this place, but if we don't figure out a solution, that could definitely happen. And that would be a huge loss to the community."
Built in 1967 by the Deltona Corp., which developed Spring Hill, the Lake House originally served as a sales office and a welcome center for prospective home buyers. In 1983, the company turned the building and the surrounding acreage over to the community association to use at it saw fit.
One of the few facilities in Spring Hill at the time that was capable of hosting large groups, the Lake House became a popular choice for civic organizations such as Yugoslav-American Suncoast Social Club, the Sons of Norway and the Latin-American Social Club, all of which held regular dances and socials there. The facility also was used on occasion for political functions and governmental meetings.
But when those groups began drifting to other locations, the association focused on promoting its own events to continue earning revenue. Perhaps best known as the site of the annual Angels on High festival at Christmastime, the venue also began staging concerts on an outdoor stage.
Lawrence said the community association has trimmed its operating budget to the bone. The organization pays about $16,000 a year for two part-time employees to book events and maintain the building. Meanwhile, the facility continues to deteriorate with age. The kitchen operates with 1960s-era food service equipment. A number of plumbing and air-conditioning problems exist as well. And the building lacks handicapped-accessible amenities.
"Every year that goes by brings more problems than we can take care of," Lawrence said. "If we had the money we would have already done those things."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.