OCOEE — The Ocoee City Commission and NFL Alumni Association leaders gathered with Validus Senior Living developers at 1 p.m. July 16, for a groundbreaking ceremony at 1060 Tomyn Blvd. at the eastern end of Warrior Road.
Officials turned dirt to signify the official start of construction on Inspired Living, the first of a $1.1 billion, 33-facility pipeline in partnership with Piper Jaffray and the NFLAA.
Officials intend to develop such facilities in all NFL cities but started in Ocoee because of a high concentration of NFL alumni in the area.
“We’re very excited to come to Ocoee,” Validus CEO Steve Benjamin said. “Validus Senior Living, based in Tampa … takes care of moms and dads — that’s what we do for a living, the reason we will build these buildings throughout the country — certainly in Tampa, St. Pete, Sarasota — with various care needs, from assisted living to memory care. We have an all-inclusive program in these communities.”
Benjamin announced Validus’s partnership with NFLAA, noting the injuries players often undergo, frequently resulting in needs for mental care atop medical care.
Along with NFLAA Central Florida Chapter President Mike Attardi and Vice President Seneca McMillan, Pro Football Hall of Fame members in attendance included Jack Youngblood, Kellen Winslow and Dwight Stephenson, showing support for one half of the NFLAA mission, “Caring for Our Own.”
“The new relationship (with Validus) will be life-changing for our members who are in need of assisted living and memory cases,” NFLAA CEO and President Joe Pisarcik said. “It’s exciting to think that this construction site will soon be the first of many facilities around the country that will provide so many people — including our former football players — the senior care that they need.”
Sylvia Mackey, husband of Pro Football Hall of Fame member John Mackey, spoke on behalf of The 88 Plan, an initiative started in John’s honor to provide NFL alumni with the care they need in these areas, especially related to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
“This project is not only important for this community — it is important for America,” Sylvia Mackey said. “The care of those with Alzheimer’s, dementia, ALS and Parkinson’s is not only a long, harrowing journey for the patients, but it is even a more tremendous and daunting journey for the caregivers, not to mention the long and painful goodbye.”
These diseases are neither curable nor preventable, with no vaccine in sight and a 100% death rate, she said. The need for this type of facility will rise with the age of the population, with football players hit especially hard by such ailments, she said.
This inspired her to write a letter to the former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, whose wife cried when he read it, Sylvia Mackey said. From there, the NFL continued through today under Commissioner Roger Goodell to keep up this plan and adjust for inflation, she said.
NFLAA Chairman of the Board and ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski called the day historic for more than 18,000 former NFL players.
“We want to represent all 18,000 of those people in the very best way we can, and forming relationships and partnerships that we have right now is why this is a historic day,” Jaworski said. “I think we’ll look back 20 years from now and remember this day. There are a lot of players that are going to benefit from this partnership and relationship that is starting right here.”
Current plans for this facility call for 158 beds and an opening day sometime next summer. Validus officials said they would provide dog parks, putting greens, swimming pools, butterfly gardens, exclusive technology and fine dining.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].