A fancy new restaurant/sports bar will open at Merchants Walk in south Lakeland. It has the potential to be a cut above — including a touch of Magic. Retired NBA standout Tracy McGrady has invested in the bar, called HomeCourt. He’s a seven-time NBA All Star who spent four years with the Orlando Magic. 

McGrady grew up in Auburndale and is widely known for giving his time and money to help children.

Everything inside the orange-and-gray-themed HomeCourt looks just about ready to go, and the builder, Miller Construction Management, got a certificate of completion from the city of Lakeland last week. But it will be awhile before the bar is opened.

A February opening is planned, and the delay is because of the coronavirus, said Hanson Li, the founder and managing partner of San Francisco-based Salt Partners Group, which has partnered with McGrady in HomeCourt. “We want to be safe,” he said.

Li said he doesn’t want HomeCourt to be solely focused on drinking. “We want it to be a place that families can enjoy,” he said.

HomeCourt features:

  • A golf simulator, where a ball is driven into a high-tech screen and lands on a simulated large-screen video golf course.
  • The usual sports bar fare of burgers and wings. But it will also serve entrees including steak and fish.
  • A 40-seat oval bar with orange-covered stools, where customers on one side of the bar face those across the way. The bartop is made from reclaimed basketball court flooring.
  • Booths and high tables. Li said the capacity of HomeCourt is 130, including 20 outside.
  • A giant and alluring outside mural of McGrady bringing the basketball upcourt.

Salt Partners owns eight upscale restaurants in San Francisco, including Humphry Slocombe, an ice cream shop. Some of the names of those restaurants are eye catching, including Horsefeather, Last Rites and Brown Sugar Kitchen.

So why would a thriving partnership in California open a business in faraway Florida? “Tracy,” Li said. He said he met McGrady through mutual friends, they talked, and HomeCourt was hatched.

Li said McGrady isn’t just lending his name to HomeCourt. “He’s a financial investor.” And, Li said, “the idea for HomeCourt is Tracy’s, not mine.”

McGrady lives in Texas. But Li said McGrady won’t be a stranger to HomeCourt.

Li said McGrady has been traveling and unavailable to comment for this article. But McGrady did forward a text message, through Li: “I opened this restaurant because I wanted to build a legacy for my family and also provide a place for the community to be proud of.”

HomeCourt will be located at  3615 S. Florida Ave. #1350, a spot that has housed several restaurants, including the original Crispers and more recently Spice Thai.

Lakeland City Manager Tony Delgado, an avid sports fan who is retiring at the end of this week, said HomeCourt “will be great for the community” and McGrady is giving back again by providing jobs.

McGrady has done much for Auburndale, said Bobby Green, the longtime city manager of Auburndale. “He never forgot where he came from.”

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