Youth hockey facility proposed in Wesley Chapel

DADE CITY — A Tampa-based developer and avid hockey fan is proposing a $20 million hockey and multipurpose sports facility at Interstate 75 and State Road 56 in south Pasco County.

Gordie Zimmermann of Zmitch LLC told the county's Tourist Development Council on Wednesday that the facility could boost hotels and restaurants by drawing coaches, players and spectators from across the region and outside Florida for tournaments and intra-league play.

"We estimate this will bring in 1.5 million to 2 million people annually," Zimmermann told the council, which oversees sports tourism.

Plans are still tentative and Zimmermann's group hasn't yet purchased the 13.5-acre site, now owned by Skinner Brothers Realty.

He said he expects to close on the deal in April or May. Then, depending on approvals by the county and state, the group could break ground this summer.

The 150,000-square-foot space would include four ice rinks — one Olympic-sized rink, two North American standard-sized rinks and a multipurpose rink that could be covered for lacrosse, indoor football or other events.

Some seating would be available around the rinks, but most would be located in a second-story viewing area. Offices and locker rooms would be included as well.

"It sounds like an exciting project," Jack Mariano, who chairs both the council and Pasco's County Commission, told Zimmermann.

"This will be just one more thing to drive people to Pasco from the Northeast," he added.

Zimmermann, who lives in south Pasco and coaches ice hockey at Wiregrass Ranch High School, said that youth hockey is a big draw, largely because of the Tampa Bay Lightning. But despite interest from players and parents, too few rinks exist in the Tampa Bay area.

As a result, some Pasco parents and coaches are forced to drive as far as Brandon and Ellenton, in Manatee County, for ice time. The only other rinks are in Oldsmar and Clearwater.

In addition to youth hockey, Zimmermann expects that adult leagues would play at the facility.

The project started coming together about a year ago after the group couldn't land a suitable site near Tampa International Airport.

"At that point, we decided to expand our search, and Pasco kept coming up in our research," said Deb Tamargo, a real estate agent who worked with Zmitch.

The company settled on the northwest corner of I-75 and S.R. 56 because of its visibility and access to Pasco and Hernando counties as well as northern Hillsborough.

The group signed a deal in November.

This isn't Pasco's first foray into hockey. Three rinks were proposed in Wesley Chapel four years ago as part of a sprawling sports complex, but the deal fell through. Another hockey complex was floated two years earlier, but that project never got off the ground.

Rich Shopes can be reached at rshopes@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6236.

Youth hockey facility proposed in Wesley Chapel 02/19/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 8:48pm]

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