Pasco County officials are set to do exactly what James Talton has wanted over the last few weeks: To terminate the agreement between the two for a massive recreational baseball complex in Wesley Chapel’s Wiregrass Ranch area.
County commissioners could do just that during its regular meeting in New Port Richey on Tuesday, after Talton’s Pasco Sports LLC failed to provide necessary paperwork to show he had $3 million available to help with the design stage of the project. Talton and retired Major League Baseball player Gary Sheffield wanted to build the complex on 100 acres of land not far from Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel, which they said could become a significant youth sports training destination.
Yet, finding private financing for what was at one time a $70 million project has been troublesome under the current agreement with the county, Talton has said, and the project could actually move forward without the county’s involvement, or its $11 million in tourist tax dollars.
“in our minds, this is just another step in the process, and we have every intention of getting this project completed,” Talton told The Laker/Lutz News last week. “The current agreement is being terminated. I literally cannot work based on the current financing environment. We will negotiate new terms and have financing in place upon execution so we can move forward immediately.”
How that would work is unclear. The county, at least based on what county administrator Michele Baker has said, is ready to move on with someone else. In a memo to commissioners, Baker said that by canceling the agreement, it will “bring closer to this matter” and “allow the county to pursue future options for the parcel in question.”
Baker also said she will with the county attorney to review the agreement struck with Pasco Sports to see any changes that might be required for the future, and prepare a list of recommendations for commissioners to consider at its Jan. 13 meeting.
The original agreement signed a year ago called for Pasco Sports to provide the county verification of $23 million in financing necessary to design and construct the park by last summer. However, that agreement was amended in July to give Talton and Sheffield a 90-day extension.
It was during that period that Pasco Sports provided a $3 million commitment letter from Hallmark Mergers & Acquisitions LLC, along with a letter from Florida EB-5 Regional Center LLC saying it was committed to raising $20 million in funds.
County officials, however, didn’t feel that was enough to meet the terms of the agreement, and the commission then gave Talton and Sheffield until Dec. 5 to at least show they had $3 million available for the project. That deadline passed, however, with a letter from Talton proposing a new plan that would eliminate the need for the $11 million county contribution — but also remove payouts to the county after it’s built — but nothing in terms of the $3 million.
That prompted Baker to recommend the entire deal be cancelled.
Talton told members of the Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce last October that his project — consisting of 19 baseball fields, dormitories and other sports-related amenities — could create an estimated 8,000 jobs and a $318 million annual economic impact boost to the county.
Commissioners will have to decide what they’re going to do next at the meeting, which begins at 10 a.m. at the West Pasco Government Center, 8731 Citizens Drive in New Port Richey.
Also expected to be discussed is Commissioner Mike Moore’s proposed sexual predator ordinance, which would prohibit registered sexual predators and sexual offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools, parks, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and bus stops. Moore unveiled the plan with Pasco County sheriff Chris Nocco last week in Wesley Chapel.