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Pasco County rejects pitch for huge sports complex in Hudson

NEW PORT RICHEY — Hudson shouldn't expect its own multiuse sports complex any time soon.

A group of residents on Tuesday made their pitch to use county tourism money to build a dozen baseball/softball fields, plus multiuse fields, restaurant and stadium-style seating on a 52-acre county-owned parcel next to Engle Park on Denton Avenue.

Representatives of two new organizations, Hudson Sports Complex and Pasco County Sports and Recreation Association, told commissioners that under their plan, those groups would manage the facility, arranging weekend tournaments and taking care of maintenance. The restaurant would be privately run.

Undisclosed private investors are interested in putting money into the project, representatives said, pending the county's commitment to dealing only with them.

No cost estimates were presented, but representatives had high hopes.

"We intend also to take care of maintenance of Engle Park," said Jeff Sylvan, a resident involved with the groups.

But commissioners dashed the idea.

The county is already negotiating with California-based Sportsplex USA to operate a proposed baseball/softball complex in Trinity and is also putting out a request for proposals for an athletics event center near Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel.

"I applaud you for your energy," Commissioner Ted Schrader said. "I just think we need to resolve both of these (other) issues before we proceed."

Also, county officials said they could not legally allow a private group to undertake a county project without allowing other companies a shot.

Jeanne Fontana, a part-time Brooksville resident working with the groups, said she had worked on similar projects in New York, and government officials did not have to put out a request for proposals since they had a private investor ready to go.

"It's your choice," she said.

Not really, County Attorney Jeff Steinsnyder said. "I think state law establishes that choice for you," he said.

Commissioner Jack Mariano, who has tried to assist the local group, said the Hudson park at some point has the potential to attract investments from some big players.

He said he has talked with representatives from the Tampa Bay Rays and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who are interested in helping build facilities in underserved areas with a higher percentage of children from low-income families.

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

Pasco County rejects pitch for huge sports complex in Hudson 01/26/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 10:06pm]
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