Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco tourism board endorses contract for tennis stadium

NEW PORT RICHEY — A contract for Saddlebrook Resort to run a proposed 5,000-seat tennis stadium won the endorsement of Pasco County's tourism board Wednesday, keeping the lagging project alive.

The $7.9-million complex has been bogged down for six years in contract negotiations and conceptual drawings as the county also struggled to secure land, receive environmental permits and put a cap on the construction budget.

Last week, County Commissioner Ted Schrader expressed doubt the 15-court tennis complex would be built because of recent trouble negotiating a deal with Saddlebrook Resort, which is supposed to run the stadium next door.

But now, with the Tourist Development Council's endorsement, the deal with Saddlebrook is headed to the County Commission. The panel's blessing came after County Administrator John Gallagher and county attorneys agreed to back the contract, following months of bumpy talks with Tom Dempsey, chief executive officer of Saddlebrook, a nationally known tennis training site.

"We've survived everything," Dempsey said before the vote.

Tourist board member Dick Boehning, a Saddlebrook executive, abstained from the 7-0 vote.

The County Commission endorsed the project in 2007, so commissioners expect to approve the deal. Schrader, who was out of the office Wednesday and did not return messages, could not be reached for reaction.

Dempsey had said Schrader's assessment was wrong because Schrader wasn't involved in negotiations. Gallagher had expressed frustration to Schrader a month earlier, though.

However, the stadium still is at least two to three years from opening. Bids have to be taken on construction, and that includes getting a contractor to agree to a guaranteed maximum price. The commission would also need to approve a development agreement with Saddlebrook, although senior assistant county attorney Jane Fagan said Pasco and Saddlebrook have reached a deal in principle.

In spring 2007, the county approved spending money from taxes on hotel stays to build the stadium. While Pasco would own the complex, Saddlebrook would be responsible for operating it. No property taxes would be used.

The proposed management contract requires Saddlebrook to provide a pair of $250,000 certificates of deposit and four condominiums as collateral if the operating costs aren't recouped. That pledge was key to winning Gallagher's support a month ago.

Saddlebrook is supposed to land three tennis events a year, although corporate outings and concerts can also take place.

Dempsey said it will cost $175,000 a year to operate the complex, which will be adjacent to the resort. He expects to rely on his company's relationships with national tennis groups to bring events to Wesley Chapel.

"In my opinion, you don't need any collateral. … Saddlebrook International Tennis is a spectacular company," Dempsey said.

David DeCamp can be reached at or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6232.

Pasco tourism board endorses contract for tennis stadium 08/06/08 [Last modified: Friday, August 8, 2008 5:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. New 'cantina-style' Taco Bells to serve alcohol, ditch drive-thrus by 2022


    Taco Bell is ditching drive-thrus and adding alcohol.

    Taco Bell plans to open more than 300 "cantina style" stores across the country that ditches the drive-thru and adds alcohol. [Times Files]
  2. Late Holy Names swimmer Cailin Cannella was a fighter until the end

    Swimming Preps

    At swim meets, Cailin Cannella would race side-by-side with her breastroke competitors, their heads bobbing in near unison.

    Holy Names swimmer Cailin Cannella, here at age 13, still was practicing last year after finding out she had osteosarcoma (bone cancer). [Times 2016]
  3. Gators roundtable: Was that really a Hail Mary?


    Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks' last-second heave beat Tennessee Saturday in Gainesville, but was it a Hail Mary, typically a pass made in desperation with little chance of success? The Times' college football coveage team weighs in:


    Feleipe Franks #13 of the Florida Gators celebrates with his teammates after he threw a 63-yard pass at the end of the game to defeat the Tennessee Volunteers 26-20 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
  4. Ernest Hooper: Hillsborough marks 100th anniversary of historic photo collection


    Everyone ends up with a favorite

    Or two or three or 10.

    Rest assured, however, no one who adores Tampa Bay, appreciates art or cherishes history can explore the Burgert Brothers Photographic Collection without storing at least one snapshot in the mental scrapbook.

    Part of the Burgert Brothers collection now featured through the Hillsborough Public Library shows a beer garden on Central Avenue in Tampa from July 1942. [Burgert Brothers collection]
  5. Tonight: St. Petersburg's six City Council candidates face off


    ST. PETERSBURG — Politics took a break in Hurricane Irma, but now it's time for City Council races to get going. The Council of Neighborhood Associations is set to host a candidate forum for the six candidates vying for three council seats at stake in November.