By B.C. Manion
Pasco County Commissioners have approved using $2 million in Tourist Development tax funds to build two lacrosse fields at Wesley Chapel District Park.
Commissioners decided April 23 to proceed on a 4-1 vote, with Jack Mariano dissenting.
The expansion is required to provide enough fields to accommodate teams competing in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Tournament of Champions presented by Pasco County.
The county promised to provide the additional fields when it entered into a four-year agreement with KSE Lacrosse to host and sponsor the tournament.
The county had until March 2014 to expand and improve its field inventory, but because of delays in negotiating a contract for construction of the Fields at Wiregrass, county staff went ahead with plans to make improvements at the district park.
The county’s utilities branch acquired 12.2 acres immediately south of the existing parking lot. That land will be purchased, managed and operated by the Office of Tourism and Development.
The Tournament of Champions has been in Pasco since 2008, growing from 26 teams to 79 last year. The event produced more than 3,700 room nights in 2012, with an estimated economic impact approaching $3 million, according to county documents.
After the meeting, Commissioner Pat Mulieri wrote in an email that she’s glad the county proceeded with voting for the new fields.
“My issue is we keeping talking and never build,” she noted. “We are moving ahead.”
There’s a possibility the fields will be constructed in time for use in this year’s tournament, said Rick Buckman, director of Pasco Parks and Recreation, in an interview after the meeting. One reason is the board voted to use turf instead of grass, which makes construction quicker, he said.
After shifting the tax funds, the county still has sufficient money for its proposed Fields at Wiregrass project, with more than $9 million remaining.
Current negotiations regarding the Fields at Wiregrass indicate that $8.5 million will be needed for that project, according to county documents.
“The ultimate plan is a complex with multiple sports,” Buckman said.
In other action at their April 23 meeting, county commissioners:
—Banned the sale of dogs and cats at flea markets. The animals can be shown, but not sold there. Commissioner Jack Mariano dissented, claiming that the action would interfere with business operations. But Commission chairman Ted Schrader and Mulieri voiced concerns about people purchasing pets on impulse. Some speakers advocating the ban claimed that pets purchased at flea markets often wind up being abandoned at the county’s Animal Services department. County officials, however, said they had no evidence regarding how many pets purchased at flea markets are abandoned.
—Heard a quarterly report from John Hagen, president and CEO of the Pasco Economic Development Council. Hagen told commissioners, “The pipeline has slowed in the last 90 days. We have not closed any new projects.” He also told them he hopes that’s an anomaly, possibly tied to the national budget cuts due to sequestration.
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