New year in sports offers plenty to enjoy, experience

As we embark on a new year, the sports world within The Laker/Lutz News coverage area promises to deliver plenty to watch and experience.

Here is a sampling of what’s ahead in 2020:

Sports and recreation in East Pasco
The year 2020 may become widely known as ‘the year’ of new sports and recreational facilities in East Pasco. Three significant sporting venues are expected to open: The Sarah Vande Berg Tennis & Wellness Center, in Zephyrhills; the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Complex, in Wesley Chapel; and Snowcat Ridge, in Dade City.

Each offers its own unique twist.

  • The Zephyrhills tennis center will offer 11 USTA-quality tennis courts, eight pickleball courts and four padel courts, plus an indoor fitness and rehabilitation center.
  • The 100,000-square-foot Wiregrass Ranch Sports Complex figures to be a national draw for basketball, volleyball and cheerleading events, and competitions.
  • Snowcat Ridge — being marketed as Florida’s first snow park — features a 60-foot-tall and 400-foot-long real snow-covered tubing hill with a magic carpet lift, an Alpine Village, and a 10,000-square-foot snow dome.

Major sporting events coming to Pasco, Tampa Bay
Pasco County and the Tampa Bay region, as a whole, are poised to host some major sporting events in the new year.

Among the most notable in Pasco: Skydive City in Zephyrhills will host the 2020 USPA (United States Parachute Association) National Parachuting and Skydiving Championships, from Oct. 30 through Nov. 24. While the event doesn’t begin until the fall, competitors will actually be training in Zephyrhills all summer long.

Zephyrhills’ Skydive City will host the 2020 National Parachuting and Skydiving Championships in the fall. (File)

Before that, Skydive City also will host the first annual Pasco Sports Fair on Feb. 16. The free, family friendly event will feature a meet-and-greet with renowned professional athletes, plus an introduction to various sport and game offerings in Zephyrhills and Pasco County, including tennis, soccer, football, basketball, skating, skydiving, boxing, mini-golf and more. Some noted pros scheduled to be in attendance include former English Premier forward Gary Blissett, former NFL defensive end Melvin Williams, former NBA shooting guard/small forward Anthony Parker, and former Tampa Bay Rowdies head coach Stuart Campbell.

Wesley Chapel’s AdventHealth Center Ice will be the venue for a slew of prominent events, including the Sunshine State Figure Skating Games (May 15 to May 17), USA Hockey Adult National Championships (April 19 to April 26), and Torhs2Hot4Ice roller derby national championships (June 28 to July 9), among others.

Meantime, Pasco and north Hillsborough residents may find some interest in these big draw events throughout the Tampa Bay region:

  • 2020 NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament first and second rounds on March 19 and March 21, at Amalie Arena, Tampa
  • PGA Tour Valspar Golf Championship, March 19 to March 22, at Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbor
  • WWE Wrestlemania 36 on April 5, at Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

Saint Leo’s new sport
Saint Leo University’s new acrobatic & tumbling program will begin its inaugural season in February, which will include seven regular season matchups and three home meets.

Acrobatics & Tumbling, a discipline of USA Gymnastics, is the evolution of different forms of gymnastics and involves tumbling, tosses, and acrobatic lifts and pyramids. Teams participate in head-to-head competition and are scored in six events, including Compulsory, Acro, Pyramid, Toss, Tumbling, and Team.

Acrobatics & tumbling marks the 21st intercollegiate sport offered at Saint Leo and the school’s 12th offering in women’s sports.

The athletics department last added women’s beach volleyball to its sports offerings in 2017.

The acrobatics & tumbling team’s 18-member roster includes five athletes from The Laker/Lutz News coverage area, with the remainder representing other areas of Florida, Maryland, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Virginia and North Carolina. The team is coached by Allie Williams and Joely Smith.

The Pasco-Hernando State College men’s baseball team is coming off a third-place finish at the 2019 National Junior College Athletic Association Division II College World Series. (Courtesy of Pasco-Hernando State College athletics)

These teams look to repeat success
The 2019 season — and last several years, for that matter — yielded banner campaigns for many prep and college teams in our coverage area. Here are some programs that may be worth watching to see if they maintain or build off past successes:

  • Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High varsity volleyball
  • Gaither High varsity football
  • Land O’ Lakes varsity girls soccer
  • Pasco-Hernando State College men’s baseball
  • Steinbrenner High varsity football
  • Steinbrenner High varsity boys cross-country
  • Saint Leo University men’s golf
  • Sunlake High varsity girls weightlifting
  • Wesley Chapel High varsity girls basketball
  • Wiregrass Ranch High varsity boys tennis

Plenty to do
There’s no shortage of recreational activities and outdoor destinations in The Laker/Lutz News coverage area. Here are a few options our readers may enjoy trying sometime in the new year:

  • Bike, run or walk the Upper Tampa Bay Trail or Withlacoochee State Trail
  • Hit the links at Trinity’s Fox Hollow Golf Club, Wesley Chapel’s Saddlebrook Resort & Spa, or Lutz’s TPC Tampa Bay, or one of the many other golf courses
  • Learn to ice skate at Wesley Chapel’s AdventHealth Center Ice
  • Take the family to Lutz’s Lake Park for hiking, biking, BMX racing, equestrian riding, kayaking, fishing, boating and more
  • Test your skeet shooting skills at Tampa Bay Sporting Clays in Land O’ Lakes, or Silver Dollar Shooters Club in Odessa
  • Gather your friends and coworkers and join a senior, men’s or coed softball league at Land O’ Lakes Heritage Park or the Land O’ Lakes Recreation Complex
  • Learn to skydive, parachute and tandem jump at Zephyrhills’ Skydive City
  • Visit Dade City’s Treehoppers to try out the largest zip line aerial adventure park in Central Florida

Published January 08, 2020

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