Tuesday, February 20, 2018
News Roundup

Decision delayed on expanding Wesley Chapel District Park

DADE CITY — Pasco County commissioners postponed a decision Wednesday on spending $2 million in tourism taxes to expand Wesley Chapel District Park, saying they would consider the matter in two weeks, when they will also take up an agreement for a proposed sports complex at another site.

The sports complex would be built on 160 acres to be donated by the Porter family, cattle ranchers who are developing Wiregrass Ranch in Wesley Chapel. The delay on the park funding decision came after the Porters expressed surprise that the county planned to siphon off tourism money for the Wesley Chapel District Park before closing on a deal for the Wiregrass sports complex, which would also be built with tourist tax revenue.

"It won't hurt to wait two weeks," County Administrator John Gallagher said.

The county wants to earmark two new multipurpose fields at the Wesley Chapel District Park for lacrosse to honor its agreement with the company that sponsors the Dick's Sporting Goods Tournament of Champions, which the county wants to keep from moving elsewhere. But County Commission Chairman Ted Schrader said last week that a vote to expand the district park was premature and expressed concern that it could jeopardize the land deal with the Porters.

The Porters and the county have been involved in tense negotiations over the land and how the sports complex would be operated. The Porters initially proposed to build and operate the park, but the talks broke down when the county wanted 8 percent of gross revenues, which the Porters said was too greedy.

Now a third company, Blue Marble Strategic, is in talks with the county to build and operate the park on the Porter land.

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