Pasco County received a $2 million federal grant to make the future Wiregrass Sports Arena hurricane-resistant, according to a news release from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Pasco’s emergency management department applied for the grant, which will pay for 75 percent of the approximately $2.7 million total cost of hurricane preparedness.
“We’re very excited for this opportunity,” said Laura Black, assistant director of emergency management. “It’s one of our top projects.”
The federal agency awards these grants through its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. The grants are provided to states, and tribal and local governments, to reduce the loss of life and property due to natural disasters, including hurricanes.
The 98,000-square-foot sports arena will be built and hardened to withstand up to 170-mph winds. That exceeds Florida’s standard requirement of 142 mph.
In addition, the floors will be elevated by 1-foot to reduce the risk of flooding. Also, a 1000-kilowatt generator will be installed to provide backup power.
All of this will be done from the ground up, during construction. Doing that will result in substantial savings, Black said, adding the cost could be as much as $8 million, if a retrofit was required afterward.
The Pasco County Commission approved the project as a public/private partnership in 2017.
RADD Sports, a private company, will operate and manage the sports complex. Pasco County will own the facility and share in anticipated profits.
The federal application included a cost analysis on economic losses, if the arena suffered hurricane damage and couldn’t operate for a period of time, Black said.
In addition to the indoor sports arena, the complex will have seven outdoor sports fields, an amphitheater with an event lawn, trails, pavilions and a playground. The county also has a ground lease for a Marriott Residence Inn that will be built with private funds at the complex.
Richard Blalock, president of RADD Sports, spoke last year at an economic briefing luncheon sponsored by the Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce (now known as North Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce).
The facility will host sporting and recreational activities, including basketball, volleyball, cheerleading, dancing, wrestling, gymnastics, curling and badminton.
Blalock last year estimated annual economic impact would be about $6.5 million. Over 10 years, about $8 million or more in sales and use taxes would be generated, not including tourism taxes from hotel stays.
A construction date isn’t scheduled as yet, but the arena is expected to open by late summer or early fall of 2019.
Published April 25, 2018