Artificial turf fields are now being fast-tracked for Wesley Chapel District Park, but not before one Pasco County commissioner called the entire project a bad move.
Commissioners Tuesday approved a $1.9 million bid from Mainstay Construction Services to build a pair of 81,000-square-foot artificial turf fields for the park off Boyette Road. The decision, according to county tourist development official Ed Caum, will help keep an annual tournament at the park, and could attract others.
But the focus should not be on tourism, but instead providing services to the residents already living here, Commissioner Jack Mariano said. He wanted five or six grass fields constructed instead to help alleviate some of the crowding for soccer and lacrosse teams who say there is not enough room to accommodate everyone.
“I think you guys are making a huge mistake,” Mariano said. “Your own citizens have spoken.”
Fellow commissioner Ted Schrader, however, rebuffed Mariano, telling him that this is the same argument he brings up each time the artificial turf is discussed, and that Mariano is clearly in the minority on his position. However, Mariano presented a new letter from one of the tournament organizers saying they preferred five new grass fields over two artificial turf fields.
“We have been having this dialogue for some time, and the tournament officials are fully aware what we are planning there,” Schrader said. “This does not come as a surprise to them. We just need to move forward and get these fields constructed, and then we are going to expand it.”
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said she empathized with Mariano, but the artificial turf fields were the better choice.
“I would like to add a lot more fields everywhere,” Starkey said. “We in the Trinity and West Pasco area have gone without fields for a long time.”
Maintaining five or six additional fields to tournament standards would be costly and difficult for the county with its current resources, county administrator Michele Baker said. Plus, the county is not abandoning the idea of adding more grass fields in the future — just not with tourism funds that are being used to construct these fields.
Six companies responded to the bid request, with the lowest coming from JCT Development of Dunedin. However, the company didn’t complete its necessary paperwork, and Tampa-based Mainstay won the bid instead. None of the bids came from companies in Pasco County, instead submitted from St. Petersburg, Atlantic Beach and St. Augustine, among others.
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