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. Tampa man crashes into parked cars, gate at the Islamic Society of Tampa Mosque


    A Tampa man intentionally drove his pick-up truck into two parked vehicles before smashing through the locked gate of the Islamic Society of Tampa Mosque, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

    Shaun H. Urwiler, 42, was arrested July 16 for intentionally driving his pick-up truck into two parked vehicles before smashing through the locked gate of the Islamic Society of Tampa Mosque, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  2. USF hoops to play at Indiana in November


    The USF men's basketball team is set to get an early test from a Big Ten powerhouse in non-conference play next season.

  3. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum


    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  4. Florida's school grades improve as educators get the hang of a new system


    Following a trend, Florida's school grades showed strong gains in the third year after the state changed its grading formula and the standardized tests that students take every year.

    After finding out earlier Wednesday that her school went from a low C to an A,  Bear Creek Elementary principal Willette Houston celebrates with her students in the YMCA After School program at the school in St. Petersburg. Houston is giving a high five to rising fifth grader Jonaven Viera. Rising 4th grader Jonathan Cafaro is in foreground with his back to camera. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  5. Tampa Bay woman, 11-year-old boy had sex up to 20 times the year their baby was born, detectives say.


    TAMPA — A woman sexually battered an 11-year-old Brandon boy, got pregnant and raised the baby for three years before a tip led to her arrest, Hillsborough County sheriff's officials said.

    Marissa Mowry, now 25,  had sex as many as 20 times in 2014 with a boy who was 11 when he impregnated her, Hillsborough County detectives allege. [Photo courtesy of Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office]