Wesley Chapel is gearing up for a lacrosse tournament that attracts teams from across the country and provides an economic boost for Pasco County.
The Dick’s Sporting Goods Tournament of Champions presented by Pasco County is slated for Dec. 29 through Dec. 31.
The tournament, operated by NDP Lacrosse, will showcase 73 elite teams from five youth divisions that will be vying for national titles. The teams are coming from 15 states, as well as one team from Ontario, Canada.
The tournament, which moved to Pasco County in 2008, has been referred to as the “inaugural national championship” for pre-collegiate lacrosse players on club teams.
“This is not your high school team or your local rec team,” said Josh Gross, NDP’s senior director of lacrosse operations. “These are all-star teams that travel from different places around the country. There have been some (other organizations) that have tried to replicate it, but none to the (level of) success that we’ve had.
“We truly get some of the best competition in the world,” said Gross, whose organization’s acronym, NDP, stands for National Development Program.”
The number of teams participating is slightly down from previous years due to rising travel costs, but the event is still expected to bring in a considerable amount of revenue for Wesley Chapel and Pasco County.
“It’s my understanding that it brings approximately a $2.6 million economic impact to our community,” said Hope Allen, president of The Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce. “That’s from nights in hotels, eating food, and shopping at our malls.”
With the event falling under the umbrella of the holiday season, many of the lacrosse teams and the players’ families remain in the area for several few days before and after the tournament, said Pasco County Tourism Manager Ed Caum.
“They come down after Christmas and stay through Christmas (break), and enjoy what they can do here after the tournament,” he said. “They can go off to Busch Gardens or down to the Florida Aquarium, so it definitely has a good impact to the Tampa Bay region.”
The tournament, which is held at both the Wesley Chapel District Park and Wesley Chapel High School, had 25 teams when it began operating in Pasco County.
Its growth since then has paved the way for the Wesley Chapel Athletic Association (WCAA) to make capital improvements in facilities, said Tom FitzSimons, WCAA president.
FitzSimons said the tournament also has given exposure to a plethora of local lacrosse players that compete in the event.
“A lot of these kids have grown athletically in the program because they had the ability to play not only teams in Florida, but (teams from) all over the country,” FitzSimons said. “It’s helped them as far as progressing to the next level in college. Upwards of 60 kids that have played with us that played in this event have gone on to play in college.”
The NDP’s existing four-year contract with Pasco County ends after this year, but there is mutual interest to see if a new agreement can be reached.
Gross said he’s excited for the event’s future and hopes it can remain in Pasco County.
“Pasco County, the Wesley Chapel Athletic Association, Saddlebrook Resort and other local partners have been tremendous to NDP and to the event for years,” he said. “We have nothing but great things to say about them.”
For Pasco County, Caum noted there is “about a $100,000 investment” in originally bringing and keeping the tournament in the area.
FitzSimons said the event is really about making a “commitment to the community” for Wesley Chapel.
“I understand the financial parts and everything else, but we’d really like to keep it here and support everything we’re doing in Wesley Chapel,” he said. “Not just from a sport program perspective, but all the growth we’ve seen in keeping these businesses hopping all times of the year.
“I know that we get called pretty much annually from businesses wanting to know when the event is, so they can staff up,” he said.
Published December 23, 2015