It’s not as expensive as he pitched to business leaders in Wesley Chapel late last month, but James Talton is moving forward with his proposed baseball complex in the Wiregrass Ranch area he says will put Pasco County on the baseball map.
Talton secured $23 million to build the 19-field complex, and once paperwork is finalized, will add another $11 million from Pasco’s tourist tax to make the project near Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel a reality.
The deal is specifically with a corporation called Pasco Sports LLC, a partnership between Talton’s Blue Marble Strategic Pasco LLC, and retired professional baseball star Gary Sheffield.
The project will be constructed in two phases, according to documents Pasco Sports submitted to county officials, including player dormitories, a 2,500-seat stadium, and concession areas that can serve multiple playing fields at the same time.
Talton had hoped to expand the complex in early phases to $70 million, but reportedly was unable to close a deal with an investor interested in putting up $50 million of the cost. That forced Talton to scale back the plans a bit in order to meet a county-imposed deadline that would make the additional $11 million available.
Once completed, the fields could still help Pasco take a big bite of what’s become a $7 billion youth sports industry, Talton said last month.
“We could make between $18 million and $20 million, and that’s just in the summertime alone,” Talton said to business leaders in September. “If we took the 13- or 14-year-olds, and we did nothing else, I could pay down my debt service of $54 million.”
That debt service, however, will now be half that as Talton moves forward with his plans.
It’s not clear if the fields will try to attract a Major League Baseball team for spring training. Sheffield suggested last month that one of his former teams, the Atlanta Braves, might be interested in leaving its current home in Lake Buena Vista and possibly coming to Wesley Chapel. The lure of a new facility, and being closer to other major spring training teams including the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, could be enough to bring them to Pasco, Sheffield said.
“That is an easy commute for them,” Sheffield said last month. “All those fans could come straight here, plus go to other places like Disney and Clearwater Beach, since they would be close by. That is a possibility that is pretty much there for the taking.”
County officials will need at least a week to review the documents before the final stamp of approval is applied. But that should happen before Oct. 24, barring any complications.