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Consultant recommends Pasco-owned property for proposed multisports complex

TRINITY — A Pasco County consultant is recommending that a proposed $11 million multisports complex be built on county-owned property next to the joint fire station and sheriff's substation.

The report by Sportsplex USA, released Wednesday, says the 24-acre property off Trinity Boulevard stands out for a number of reasons, most notably because it has "zero constraints that would hinder construction" and because it would have a "substantial impact" on alleviating overcrowded county recreation fields.

San Diego-based Sportsplex has also recommended a possible design for the Trinity site: four lighted softball/baseball fields, three multipurpose fields, one football field, a fieldhouse, six batting cages and a 6,500-square-foot restaurant and office building.

The county-owned property had not received nearly as much attention as some of the other privately-owned sites, including Starkey Ranch, Wiregrass and New River Township.

As Commissioner Pat Mulieri put it Wednesday, the Trinity property "is kind of a sleeper site."

Commissioners will take up the recommendation at their meeting Tuesday.

"I'm sure there will be a vigorous debate," Mulieri said.

Pasco plans to use tourist tax revenue — also known as the "bed tax" paid by motel and short-term rental guests — to build the project.

To justify using that pot of money, officials want the complex to host weekend sports tournaments that would get players — and their families — to stay in county hotels and dine and shop at local businesses.

Sportsplex, which was hired in August for $270,000 to get the project off the ground, looked at a number of factors in making its decision about location: population centers; proximity to the airport, hotels and retail; visibility from the highways; site development costs; impact on local traffic; impact on local fields.

In recommending the Trinity site, the consultant notes that the property has:

• An access road and utilities that are already installed.

• 2,200 retail storefronts within a 5-mile radius, the most of any of the other sites.

• A short, 26-mile drive to the airport.

• 750,000 residents within a 30-minute drive.

The Trinity property, the consultants write, "has been identified as the most complete site ready to start construction."

Other sites included in the evaluation were Concourse Center at State Road 52 and the Suncoast Parkway; Connerton; Engle Park in Hudson; New River Township in Wesley Chapel; Pasco Town Centre at SR 52 and Interstate 75; Starkey Ranch in Odessa; Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel and the Wesley Chapel site once designated for a tennis stadium.

According to the report, those sites had a mix of shortcomings.

Starkey Ranch, which is close to the Trinity property, was ranked similarly on most of the factors except for one: Getting the site ready for construction would be costly, at least $1.4 million.

Concourse Center didn't have any hotels within a 10-mile radius.

Pasco Town Centre needs internal roads and would require too many regulatory approvals.

Connerton had the least amount of nearby retail. Wiregrass, Engle Park and New River would come with "substantial" development costs.

Another plus for the Trinity site? Seven hotels with at least 50 rooms are located within 10 miles.

But it's not likely that all the hotels listed near the Trinity property would be places that traveling youth sports teams would want to stay.

One of them is Valu-Lodge on U.S. 19 in New Port Richey, a motel that was featured in the Pasco Times earlier this year because of the high number of police calls — drugs, prostitution, theft — generated at the address.

A multisports complex could translate into a demand for 15,470 room nights each year, Sportsplex says in its report.

Where would the tournaments come from? Sean Melvin, Sportsplex's general manager, said he has surveyed 11 sports associations — from the World Softball League to Sunshine Sports youth baseball — and several of them have already submitted letters of intent to book their tournaments in Pasco if the project moves forward.

Based on those conversations, Melvin said he is "extremely confident" that the group could book the complex for 50 weekends a year.

Though no contract has been signed, Sportsplex would likely run the complex and owe Pasco a share of the revenue each year. In its report, the company showed projections that included revenues of $1.4 million in the fifth year, a figure that would mean about $97,253 (7 percent) for the county coffers.

The Pasco project marks Sportsplex's first venture outside of California.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

Commission meeting

County commissioners meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday at West Pasco Government Center, 7530 Little Road in New Port Richey. The meeting will also be broadcast live on Pasco Television, which can be seen on Bright House Networks Ch. 622 and Verizon Ch. 42.

Consultant recommends Pasco-owned property for proposed multisports complex 11/25/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 9:34pm]

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