By the end of next year, State Road 56 will be more crowded than ever.
A new Mercedes dealership. A long-awaited outlet mall and the different stores it will bring. Yet another hotel, this time 120 rooms.
Not bad for a road that, just a little more than a decade ago, didn’t even exist.
Joining all that, however, is an ice and sports complex so big, it might make existing facilities in Ellenton, Oldsmar and maybe even Brandon a bit jealous.
Apartment developer Gordie Zimmermann and his colleagues Z Mitch LLC, closed on 13 acres of land last week on Cypress Ridge Boulevard for $2.6 million, where they plan to build a 155,500-square-foot ice and sports complex complete with four pads of ice, a restaurant, and room for other sports in the community.
Zimmermann’s development team is investing more than $20 million in the project, all so that Zimmermann’s hockey team — and other teams like it — won’t have to travel so far anymore to find a sheet of ice in Florida.
“I was operating down in the Brandon facility, and I noticed that the adult hockey program had taken over,” Zimmermann said of Ice Sports Forum, a two-pad complex he also owns. “The kids had limited ice time there, and had to drive 60 to 70 miles to an ice practice.”
Zimmermann, in his off-time, coaches the Wiregrass Ice Hawks, a youth team that includes his son, incoming Wiregrass High School junior Luke Zimmermann. The Ice Hawks finished as one of the top youth hockey teams in the state, second only to Mitchell High School.
The long drives and fighting for time on the ice limits the younger Zimmermann’s practice time to just a few days a week. But having a sports complex within walking distance of his Seven Oaks home could actually get him out on the ice much more frequently.
“I’d probably be going there every day,” Luke Zimmermann, a center for the team, said.
Although the facility is tentatively called the Cypress Creek Ice and Sport Complex, Gordie Zimmermann said he’s not opposed to finding a corporate sponsor to buy the naming rights. But even if that happens, it would probably be hard for people not to refer to the facility based on where it is geographically, like Cypress Creek or even Wesley Chapel.
And that’s exactly what Jeff Novotny wanted to hear. Not only is he president of American Consulting, which helped with the Zimmermann project, but he’s also president of the Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce, which has been working tirelessly on branding new development along State Road 56 in the name of Wesley Chapel.
“I can tell you that the Tampa Bay area has a shortage of ice availability for all age levels,” said Novotny, whose American Consulting headquarters is literally next to the site where the ice complex will be built. “I can count on one hand the number of ice arenas in a one-hour drive. And thanks to the Tampa Bay Lightning, it is better than what it was 15 years ago.”
The Lightning was represented by Stanley Cup winner Dave Andreychuk who, coincidentally, went to high school with Zimmermann in Hamilton, Ontario. Andreychuk stood behind Zimmermann last week during a news conference where the new facility was unveiled, and lent his support to the facility.
Although there are plans to build a two-pad ice sports complex near The Grove in Wesley Chapel, Zimmermann seemed to dismiss the possibility that the local market could become too saturated with ice.
“I think we’ve done our homework,” he said. “I come from an area that has 200 rinks — eight-plexes and six-plexes, and it’s kind of the way of the world to build a minimum of four.”
The facility will be two stories tall, complete with two National Hockey League-level ice pads, and one meeting Olympic specifications. A fourth smaller ice pad, which can double as a non-ice sports court, could be made available when needed for young kids just getting their start, or even to help goalies learn position playing, Zimmermann said.
A restaurant would be situated on the second floor, with a clear view of all the rinks.
“During tournaments, some people’s children’s games might be an hour or two apart, an they can go up and grab a quick snack,” Zimmermann said. “Others might have six- or seven-hour gaps, and they can go to Wiregrass mall, and maybe to a restaurant.”
Coming right behind it is a planned 120-room hotel expected to close on 3 acres of land this summer, developers said. It would complement offerings already in that area, including an existing Hampton Inn & Suites.
Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano joined other government leaders at the presentation in endorsing the project, calling the project a crowning achievement to what the county is trying to accomplish in the State Road 56 and Interstate 75 corridor.
“Two rinks would’ve been great, three rinks is phenomenal, but with four, everyone is going to want to come here and play this from all around the world,” Mariano said, highlighting potential interest to travel here from groups outside Florida, and even outside the United States. “If you had to go to Canada or down here to play hockey, where would you want to go?”
Published June 4, 2014