Tampa Resort History

Saddlebrook Resort History – a Unique Vision Brought to Life

Thomas L. Dempsey, then Chairman and CEO of Penton Publishing, a subsidiary of the Fortune 500 Pittway Corporation, developed Saddlebrook Resort after Pittway purchased the 480-acre property in 1979. Dempsey envisioned a resort that would allow guests to experience a side of Florida many had never seen, an abundant wildlife that thrives because of the preservation of surrounding lakes and woodlands. The resort itself is located within a gated and secure nature preserve that is home to colorful birds such as Sandhill Cranes, Wood Storks and Great Blue Herons to Snowy Egrets and even gators, along with verdant vegetation that exists in harmony with the natural layout of the hotel grounds.

Saddlebrook Resort formally opened in 1981, with a unique car-free Walking Village design that allows guests to easily walk throughout the resort without the need of a transportation system while providing sanctuary to nature.

Mr. Dempsey purchased the resort from Pittway in 1988, and remains Chairman and CEO as well as a full-time resident. Saddlebrook now operates as an independent family-owned resort in the grand style and tradition typified by the nation's finest properties. Over the years, the resort has continued to flourish, becoming an acclaimed destination for Tampa conferences and events as well as a nationally-recognized training center for golf and tennis. In 1992, the Saddlebrook Preparatory School was founded designed to offer student athletes a comprehensive educational experience with concurrent enrollment in either the Saddlebrook Tennis Program or Saddlebrook Golf Academy. Saddlebrook Prep is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Florida Council of Independent Schools.

Saddlebrook Resort's rich history and the vision of founder Thomas Dempsey can still be felt throughout our 480-acre Tampa resort. Recent accolades include being named one of the 'Top 100 Golf Resorts in North America, The Caribbean and The Atlantic, Ireland and Scotland' by Condé Nast Traveler, listed among the 'Top 25 Tennis Resorts in the World' by Tennis Resorts Online, and receiving 27 Pinnacle Awards from Successful Meetings, as well as 29 Gold Key, 23 Gold Tee, and 9 Gold Platter awards from Meetings & Conventions magazine, which also lists Saddlebrook as a Gold Hall of Fame member.