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Three-rink hockey center part of proposed complex

WESLEY CHAPEL — Development plans have been filed with Pasco County for a $31.5-million sports and entertainment complex, dominated by a three-rink ice hockey center, in Wesley Chapel.

A group of 13 business partners, including several with ties to the National Hockey League, the American Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey Association, is proposing that the ice sports venue, called SportsPlex USA, be accompanied by a 36-lane Brunswick Bowling center, a 40-foot rock climbing wall, a two-level laser tag zone, an 18-hole miniature golf course, two restaurants and a sports bar, an espresso cafe, and party and corporate meeting rooms.

At 288,000 square feet, the proposed complex would be roughly twice the size of a Wal-Mart Supercenter. One of the rinks would seat 1,500 people.

A 140-room hotel and an indoor water park are proposed for SportPlex's second phase, though no time line has been set for the project.

The group, led by Clearwater tire dealer S. Patrick DeLorenzo and St. Petersburg beverage dispenser businessman G. Vallee Bain, has a contract on a 22-acre site on Old Pasco Road and County Road 54, minutes away from the newly opened Grove at Wesley Chapel mall.

They propose to buy the land for $9.8-million, according to papers filed with Pasco County.

Hockey venues are a tempting business prospect in the northern Tampa Bay area. The only public rinks in the Tampa Bay area currently are in Brandon and Oldsmar. Each is roughly 25 miles from central Pasco.

These new plans come a year after Oldsmar rink operator David Beaudin submitted a $10-million proposal to the Pasco County Tourism Development Council for a Pasco Ice Pavilion on U.S. 41 and Tower Road.

But Beaudin's plans have been crimped by funding and permitting problems and is now dwarfed in scale and ambition by the rival plan for SportsPlex USA.

Bain was reluctant to disclose details Monday, saying only that his group was still preparing an official news release.

"We've been working on it for 1 1/2 years," he said. "We've done our homework and we know what we're doing."

The plan filed with Pasco names DeLorenzo, who listed coaching certification from the Ontario Hockey Association and eight years as an NHL "off-ice" official, as the chief developer and partner. Bain is listed as a development and project manager.

"Off-ice" official means one with an administrative rather than enforcement role.

According to the proposal filed with Pasco, others in the SportsPlex "starting team" include Bobby Taylor, a former NHL goalkeeper for the Philadelphia Flyers; James Galluzzi, the supervisor of NHL off-ice officials at the Tampa Bay Lightning; Anthony Mancuso, a former AHL player, coach and referee; Largo attorney Steve Moore; Lutz architect Rick Z. Smith; Clearwater engineer E. Michael McCarthy; Tampa planner Michael Horner; Patrick DeLorenzo Jr.; Victor Marconi Jr., a hockey coach, referee and rink manager; Michael Shockey, the 2006 chief engineer for the NHL Arena in Columbus, Ohio; and Kristen Gilbert, a professional figure skating instructor.

Bain would not comment on whether his group has official ties to the Lightning, saying, "I can't answer that at this time."

Eric Keaton, the county's tourism development coordinator, who recently met the group to discuss support from Pasco tourism officials, said he asked the group if it had ties to the Lightning or Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk and was told, "Not at this time."

Andreychuk didn't reply to a call for comment Monday.

Keaton said the SportsPlex group was not asking Pasco for funds but had arranged the meeting to discuss event marketing and how to position the complex as a tourism prospect.

"They said they have a lot of individual private investors," Keaton said.

Keaton said the group could apply for Florida Sports Foundation grants, if its pitch is tailored to fit the foundation's requirements.

DeLorenzo's pitch to Pasco includes having professional coaches work with special-needs children and the underprivileged.

"As a father of a disabled son, I know firsthand how hard it is to find activities for special-needs individuals to participate in," DeLorenzo said in the proposal.

Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 909-4613.

Three-rink hockey center part of proposed complex 06/16/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 19, 2008 5:47pm]
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