Lacrosse players from across the nation will compete in Wesley Chapel at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Tournament of Champions for at least the next two years.
Pasco County and NDP (National Development Program) Lacrosse have entered into an agreement that covers the tournament for 2016 and 2017.
Last year’s tournament had a $2.1 million economic impact on Pasco and Hillsborough counties, said Ed Caum, Pasco County’s tourism manager.
With new developments — such as Tampa Premium Outlets and Florida Hospital Center Ice, as well as other businesses and restaurants — there’s potential for an even greater economic return from the visitors, Caum said.
“We are very pleased the Dick’s Sporting Goods Tournament of Champions lacrosse tournament will be returning to Wesley Chapel,” Tracy Clouser, board chair of The Greater Wesley Chamber of Commerce, said via email. “We feel the area has a lot to offer tournament attendees and their support of our hotels, restaurants and shopping venues has a significant economic impact on our community.”
Besides the economic boost, the tournament offers lacrosse players a chance to showcase their skills, and colleges a chance to scout for players, Caum said.
Teams from the United States and Canada earn bids at qualifying tournaments to compete for the national championship across five divisions.
The tournament has been held at the Wesley Chapel District Park and at Wesley Chapel High School since 2008.
This past year, 73 teams competed. Fifty-nine came from out-of-state and 14 were from Florida, Caum said. The 2015 tournament involved 1,533 players and 219 coaches. There were about 3,250 spectators on each day of the tournament, which takes place each year from Dec. 29 through Dec. 31.
On average, those traveling to the tournament stayed in the area for 3 ½ days to 4 days, Caum said.
But, the tourism manager thinks more can be done to extend their stay.
And, he’s begun reaching out to area sponsors to help make that happen.
“The event kicks off at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Store. They are at The Grove every year.
“There’s a number of other days that they’re going to be in the area. I’d like to see all of our shopping centers and local businesses step up and do some sponsorship to provide opportunities, to move these teams and their families around the whole Pasco area.
“I’d love to see them go to Tree Hoppers, the new cable adventure park. I’d love to see them take an opportunity to go out to SunWest, because even in January that water temperature stays between 72 and 75 degrees because it’s spring-fed.
“You actually could be out there on that giant water playground at the end of December.”
Caum also would like to see more of the visitors bed down for the night in Pasco County.
“I’ve got the report from NDP Lacrosse. About 20 percent of the participants stayed in Pasco and 80 percent stayed in Hillsborough,” Caum said, that’s a 20 percent increase in the number of visitors choosing Hillsborough hotels, instead of staying in Pasco.
“We had a number of our hoteliers that had raised their price up,” the tourism manager said. Families that may have preferred to stay in Pasco were priced out and stayed in Hillsborough hotels instead, he said.
“We’re going to partner with the hotels a lot closer,” Caum said.
“Just because you have a great event coming in, you can’t gouge your participants. We’re hoping that they don’t do that again this year,” Caum said.
There was a time, back in 2012, when the lacrosse tournament’s future in Pasco County was uncertain. Back then, the tournament was being courted by IMG Academies, an elite athletic training facility in Bradenton.
But, Pasco upped the ante in their bid to keep the tournament and were able to secure it for four more years.
This time, the county signed a two-year deal with a third-year option, Caum said.
The county didn’t want to tie the contract to the Wesley Chapel District Park and the fields at Wesley Chapel High School for a longer period, Caum said.
“We may have a new field complex, depending on what rolls out with the sports complex,” Caum said, referring to Pasco County’s ongoing efforts to open a new sports complex.
Regardless of where the event is, however, Caum said the county wants to continue the involvement of the Wesley Chapel Athletic Association.
“We could not do it without them,” Caum said. “They’re the ones who provide all of the volunteers, and do all of the concessions and stuff.”
“That’s another reason that the NDP wanted to come back, because of the relationship they have (with the Wesley Chapel Athletic Association) — they have that volunteer base,” Caum said.
“Pasco County’s Board of County Commissioners, its Tourist Development Council and the Wesley Chapel Athletic Association have provided tremendous support to the event for nearly a decade,” Josh Gross, NDP’s vice president of business operations, said in a news release announcing the two-year deal.
Published June 8, 2016