Pasco County is putting its sports and recreation offerings front and center, in a strategy aimed at boosting tourism.
Visit Pasco — the county’s tourism arm — is rebranding its slogan to “Florida’s Sports Coast.”
The announcement came at the second annual East Pasco Economic Development Summit.
Adam Thomas, who oversees Pasco’s tourism efforts, said the new moniker shows the county is “charging ahead to becoming that premier sports destination in Florida.”
“We’re in the memory-making business. We want to tell our story, especially with our sports assets and really get that message out there to really get that return on investment,” Thomas explained at the Nov. 2 event held at Pasco-Hernando State College’s Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch.
The brand launch and marketing campaign for “Florida’s Sports Coast” will begin in January, Thomas said.
Previous Pasco tourism promotions featured the slogans “It’s only natural” and “Open spaces, vibrant places” — referring to the county’s ecotourism offerings.
“The logo and name is just a logo and a name, but the strategy behind it is really going to create that sense of place and that sense of destination for Pasco County as the Florida sports coast,” Thomas explained.
The new branding coincides with a number of new multipurpose sports facilities that have opened or will open soon.
Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, for instance, opened in early 2017 as the largest hockey complex in the southeastern United States.
It drew national attention this past year when it played host to the gold medal-winning 2018 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team. It’s also the training grounds of other Olympians, such as French pair skaters Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres.
The Wiregrass Ranch Sports Complex is next in line become a major draw once it opens in late 2019.
The $44 million, 98,000-square-foot facility will feature eight basketball courts, 16 volleyball courts, a cheer and dance studio, a fitness center, and sports medicine and athletic training offerings.
The complex, which broke ground in June, also will be able to host other sporting events and recreational activities, such as martial arts, wrestling, gymnastics, curling, badminton, indoor soccer, and lacrosse and pickleball.
Other facilities on tap include the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis Center in Zephyrhills and the Christopher N. Chiles Aquatic Center in Land O’ Lakes.
Meanwhile, the Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel has been a world-renowned golf and tennis mainstay since the 1980s.
Beyond those offerings, Pasco’s various outdoor recreational features will also fall under the Florida’s Sports Coast branding, Thomas noted.
The county’s inshore and offshore fishing offerings, as well as its network of hiking, biking and walking trails, create what Thomas labeled as “742 square miles of destination.”
In addition to the branding announcement, the economic summit also featured a series of panel discussions with stakeholders on the economic impact and opportunities that lie within the sports tourism industry.
Jason Aughey, senior director for the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, praised the county’s ongoing sports tourism efforts.
“Pasco County, in and of itself, is growing exponentially and gaining quite a bit of attention throughout the sports tourism industry,” he said. “I think the sky is really the limit.
“I’d be extremely bullish on what’s going on here; things are only going to get better,” Aughey added, while underscoring the economic benefit of sports tourism on the whole — particularly in the youth and amateur arena.
“Sports is very recession-proof in the sense that parents aren’t going to put away their child’s experience and/or potential opportunity for future scholarships. Same thing with discretionary spending as it pertains to adult seniors as far as the overall experience. Regardless of what’s happening in the economy, sports is going to continue to pull through,” he said.
Richard Blalock, chief executive officer of RADD Sports, the company that will manage the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Complex, also is upbeat about the Pasco’s sports tourism initiatives.
“The county’s moving in an awesome direction with their rebranding and the resources that they’ve put in,” Blalock said.
He noted the county’s efforts to serve a broad range of mid-sized indoor and outdoor sporting events year-round will further a stronghold on sports tourism.
The economic impact is year-round, and is not seasonal in nature, Blalock said.
Other speakers at the summit included Gordie Zimmerman, Florida Hospital Center Ice general manager; Pat Ciaccio, Saddlebrook Resort general manager; Carolynn Smith, 7 Marketing PR chief executive officer; Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore; Pasco County Administrator Dan Biles; Dr. Stanley Giannet, of Pasco-Hernando State College; and, Dr. Keiva Wiley, Pasco County Schools director of Career and Technical Education.
The event was jointly presented by the North Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce and Pasco-Hernando State College.
Revised November 15, 2018