“Everybody in the county is a winner,” hotelier says
By B.C. Manion
Pasco County appeared poised early this week to sign a deal that would keep a national lacrosse tournament in Wesley Chapel for four more years.
The county had been at risk of losing the tournament and its $3 million impact on the local economy, but apparently has worked out a deal with ADP Lacrosse, which manages the event.
“Happy, happy. Joy, joy,” said Jeff Miller, economic development chairman of the Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce, in reaction to the prospect of keeping the tournament.
News that NDP Lacrosse had reached a four-year agreement with the county was posted on its website, but the Pasco County Commission was not scheduled to vote on the contract until Tuesday, March 6.
County officials worked hard last week to keep the event, known as Dick’s Sporting Goods Tournament of Champions, in Pasco County.
IMG Academies, an elite athletic training facility in Bradenton, had offered a number of enticements, including $40,000 compared to a maximum of $25,000 in the county’s contract, to attract the event. IMG also has 17 fields at one location versus 14 fields at two locations in Wesley Chapel.
“We did receive a compelling bid to bring the event down to Bradenton by IMG,” said Brian Tatum, director of operations for NDP Lacrosse. “The field quality at IMG is spectacular. It’s a multinational corporation that doesn’t do anything second-rate.”
In the end, however, “everyone in that area (Pasco County) got together to put their best foot forward” to keep the national tournament, he said.
“They were able to beat IMG’s offer,” Tatum said, but the county stepped up in other ways, too, Tatum said.
The county pledged to provide the infrastructure needed for web streaming of tournament games. It also promised more fields to address the tournament’s growth.
The deal also gives NDP the ability to strike deals with more hotels that would be affiliated with the tournament. Those hotels would provide a rebate to the tournament organizers, Tatum said.
The percentage of those rebates is not known because negotiations have not yet occurred, Tatum said.
Other factors also played into the decision, Tatum said.
For one thing, NDP Lacrosse appreciates the solid track record with Pasco County and the Wesley Chapel Athletic Association, Tatum said. “It’s been a great relationship.”
The tournament, held in Wesley Chapel since 2008, draws about 80 teams from the United States and Canada.
Staff at the nearby Dick’s Sporting Goods retail store, at The Grove, also expressed a strong desire to keep the event in Wesley Chapel, Tatum said.
The proximity of Saddlebrook Resort, an internationally known destination with tennis, golf and spa facilities, also played into the decision, Tatum said. Many of the teams and families traveling to the tournament stay at Saddlebrook. The resort takes on an atmosphere similar to an Olympic village, with so many lacrosse players hanging out there.
When Todd Patrick, sales director at Hampton Inn & Suites, Tampa-Wesley Chapel, heard about NDP’s announcement, he responded: “Everybody in the county is a winner.”
Miller agreed: “We’re very excited. This is a boon to Wesley Chapel and Pasco County.”
Having the event in Wesley Chapel has short-term and long-term benefits, Miller said.
In addition to full hotels and busier shops and restaurants, the tournament also increases Wesley Chapel’s national exposure, giving the community a chance to show off its strengths to a wider audience, which may entice more companies and people to move to