Wiregrass sports campus to open in July

A hard hat tour and official logo unveil signaled construction is moving swiftly on the highly anticipated Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus of Pasco County, at 3211 Lajuana Blvd., in Wesley Chapel.

Several Pasco County officials and other local dignitaries gathered on Jan. 28 to get an up-close look at the forthcoming $44 million project.

Before revealing the new logo for the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus of Pasco County, Commission Chairman Mike Moore offered a few remarks about the project to those taking a hard hat tour of the site. Behind Moore are Adam Thomas, director of Experience Florida’s Sports Coast, left, and Richard Blalock, CEO of RADDSports. (Christine Holtzman)

The 98,000 square feet of indoor space will be used primarily for basketball, volleyball, cheerleading and more than a dozen other sports. And, there will be two adjacent outdoor multi-use fields for soccer, lacrosse and other events.

Marshall Quarles, project manager for contractor Ajax Building Corp., said the complex is “over 50%” complete, and still on track for a July opening.

The project manager also said bio-cushioned hardwood floors will be installed sometime in late April.

“We try to push that (hardwood install) as long as we can, because obviously we don’t want to have to go back and do any work on top of it,” Quarles explained.

With a timeline in place, sports events have already been booked for the remainder of the year.

Officials said as many as six events have been booked for late 2020, which will equate to 2,460 room nights.

The first is a Sept. 11 high school volleyball tournament that will draw teams from Hillsborough, Pasco and Orange counties, said Richard Blalock, president and CEO of RADD Sports, the private sports management company tasked with operating and managing the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus.

That initial volleyball tournament will serve as a soft opening of sorts for subsequent tournaments, Blalock said, “to make sure the nets come down, the scoreboards work, benches are in the right place, all that kind of stuff.”

While still months away from completion, Blalock already is getting inquiries from youth and amateur sports tournament directors looking to lock up their events at the facility in 2021 and beyond. Blalock has said he hopes to book more than 30 events in the facility’s first full year, then grow from there. “I’ve got organizations fighting over dates,” he said.

Marshall Quarles, project manager for Ajax Building Corporation, uses a map to explain the layout of the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus, during a hard hat tour.

The multi-purpose sports complex, which features 37-foot-high ceilings, is large enough to hold either 16 volleyball games or eight basketball games at one time — the floors separated by a cheer/dance studio, fitness center and second-level mezzanine. The floor spaces also can be converted to accommodate less traditional sports such as pickleball (up to 16 courts) or futsal (up to eight courts), and more than a dozen other sports and activities.

Other notable amenities include an educational lab, full-service kitchen, a concessions area and snack bar. The indoor facility will have a capacity of 1,100, and the campus will have 700 available parking spaces, officials said.

Blalock pointed out multiple events could be going on simultaneously. For instance, one side of the gym could be used for a volleyball tournament, while the other side could be used for another sport or even a convention. “Our whole concept is to be as flexible as it can be. That’s why it’s designed the way it is,” said Blalock.

Blalock also revealed there’s been active discussions with soccer teams from the United Kingdom to utilize the Wesley Chapel-based campus as a year-round indoor/outdoor training residency. In addition to the outdoor fields, Blalock said the campus meets the regulations for indoor soccer. Meanwhile, soccer teams could room at an on-site 128-room Marriott Residence Inn that will be phased in at a later date through private funds.

“It appeals to them. They can come right here, stay, train, and everything’s in walking distance,” he said.

Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore underscored the expected impact the facility will have on the area’s economy and tourism industry, during the facility preview.

Said Moore, “As people visit our community for gymnastics, volleyball, cheerleading, basketball, wrestling and so many more sporting activities, they’re going to travel with their families, stay in Pasco County hotels, shop at Pasco County stores — to help businesses, small and large alike, grow.”

But, the campus figures to be more than simply boosting county tourism figures.

It also will serve as a community sports hub for local residents, including youth camps, recreational games and more.

The plan is for the facility to be open to the public Monday through Thursday, while Friday through Sunday is set aside for weekend tournaments.

Other uses include such events as graduations, trade shows, cultural and art fairs. Additionally, the facility will be deployed as a “shelter of last resort” in the case of a hurricane, as it will be equipped with a generator.

Moore called the campus “a public asset that will help continue to grow Pasco County’s tourism industry and open up jobs for our community, as well as providing athletic opportunities to local citizens and children alike.”

Published February 05, 2020

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