The city of Lakeland takes its name from the more than 38 lakes located within its 51 square miles. Although it is known for its beautiful scenery and historic buildings, the city has been experiencing rapid growth. Its population is estimated around 93,000.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
Located between the major cities of Tampa and Orlando, the city of Lakeland has positioned itself as a major business hub for the state of Florida. It houses the headquarters of a number of major corporations, including Publix Super Markets and Discount Auto Parts. These corporations are major employers in the area, as is the Lakeland Regional Medical Center.
The most common industries found here are health care, educational services, accommodation and food services, construction, and food and beverage stores. The unemployment rate is about 4 percent.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
The city of Lakeland has almost 93,000 urban residents. Lakeland has about 39,000 houses, of which more than half are occupied by the owners.
The Lakeland Community Development Department (LCDD) has identified 50 neighborhoods inside the city limits. Almost all of the residential areas are considered family-friendly and are often identified by which lake they are closest to. Restored homes line the tree-filled streets in neighborhoods dating back to the early 20th century.
Historic Downtown Lakeland typifies the city's leisurely sensibility and love of art and culture. Main Street runs from Kryger Overlook Park and the revitalized Lake Mirror Promenade to historic Munn Park. Munn Park is home to more than 40 historically significant buildings and has been considered the "town square" since 1884. A trackless trolley connects all of downtown and Lakeland's two-story train station provides an excellent view overlooking Lake Mirror Park.
- Lake Mirror Park: Located in downtown Lakeland, Lake Mirror Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is popular with both residents and tourists alike, and features an outdoor amphitheater, a walking promenade, and the Hollis Garden, a 1.2-acre botanical garden that the Gulfcoast Research and Education Center named a "Best of Class Garden."
- Barnett Family Park: This park offers a number of unique experiences for visitors. It houses a collection of sculptures depicting wildlife native to Florida and is known for its Byzantine tiles made from hand-cut glass. The park also includes unique play equipment for children such as a "beehive ride" and a "spider web climb." Its interactive water fountain and educational labyrinth are also favorites.
- Florida Southern College: Florida Southern College is famous for its architecture. The campus was designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1930s and '40s. It is the largest assemblage of Wright's buildings in the world and has served as a model for other campuses throughout the country.
Lakeland is also just a short drive away from major attractions in the Orlando/Tampa area, such as Disney World, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, and Sea World.
Lakeland prides itself on being the recreational center of Polk County. In addition to its many lakes, the city is home to numerous parks and other recreational facilities.
- Cleveland Heights Golf Course: Lakeland's Cleveland Heights Golf Course has been a recreational staple in the community since 1925. This public course features a 27-hole course, a lounge, pro shop, and event room. It plays host to various golfing events throughout the year.
- Lake Bonny Park: Composed of about 113 acres on Lake Bonny, this city park offers a number of family-friendly recreational opportunities, including a jogging/fitness trail, two baseball fields, a softball field, a soccer field, playgrounds, and picnic areas.
- Adair Park: Located near historic Henley Field Ball Park, Adair Park features the city's only skate park in addition to Little League and T-Ball fields and picnic areas.
- Lake Parker Park: Lake Parker Park offers 100.5 acres of recreational space. A favorite location for bird watching, the park features four walking paths, a boat ramp, tennis courts, soccer fields, playgrounds, picnic areas, and shuffleboard and lawn bowling. Fishing is allowed in the park.
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
- The Lakeland Center: The Lakeland Center is a convention complex that hosts more than 500 sports, entertainment, and convention events each year. Events range from Broadway shows to concerts, sporting events, and consumer shows. In 2003 the center hosted the "Elite Eight" NCCA Division II Basketball Championships.
- Polk Museum of Art: The Polk Museum of Art offers visitors the chance to enjoy eight galleries and a sculpture garden. The museum is home to a permanent collection of art including both regional and international pieces that are exhibited on a rotating basis. It also attracts major touring exhibits.
- Polk Theatre: The Polk Theatre was originally built as a movie palace/vaudeville hall in 1928. Today, this historic building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, hosts a number of events each year. Offerings include film showings, a performing arts series, and other special events.
- Martin Luther King Jr. Parade: Each January, Lakeland holds this parade to honor the civil rights leader.
- Lakeland Snowfest: The Snowfest is an annual tradition in Lakeland. Held each year at the city's Lake Mirror Complex, the event features family-friendly cold-weather fun.
- The Sun'n Fun EAA Fly-In: Each year, Lakeland plays host to the Sun'n Fun EAA Fly-In, an aviation convention. The event brings 300,000 visitors to the city each year and creates more than $25 million in revenues.
The city of Lakeland is served by TheLedger, a daily newspaper owned by The New York Times Co. Vision Latina, a Spanish language paper, is also published in the city.
Colleges and universities in Lakeland include Florida Southern College, Southeastern University, and the University of South Florida Polytechnic. The city is also home to Polk Community College.
Lakeland has a history as a spring training site for several Major League Baseball teams. The Cleveland Indians held their spring training at the city's historic Henley Field Ball Park from 1923 to 1927. The Detroit Tigers have had their spring home in Lakewood since 1934. The team trains and plays at the city's Joker Marchant Stadium. It also owns a minor league team, the Lakeland Flying Tigers, that plays in the city.