Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Wiregrass officials: County pushing a bad deal on sports complex

Negotiations seem to be souring on the multimillion-dollar sports complex in Wesley Chapel's Wiregrass development.


According to Wiregrass representatives, it's because the county is pushing a bad business deal that would force the company to take on all of the project's risks without sharing the benefits.

"We take one step forward and end up taking five steps backward every time," Wiregrass lawyer Bill Merrill said of months-long talks with county officials.

J.D. Porter, whose family owns the development, added: "Each time we have given a little bit to really make the county stand out, they . . . turn away all of the stuff that makes this a doable deal."

In April, commissioners approved plans for the 200-acre Fields at Wiregrass, which would have eight baseball and softball fields and a dozen multipurpose fields for soccer or lacrosse. County officials then began negotiating with the Porter family to write an operation and maintenance agreement for the complex.

Talks were on a low boil for months but burst into the open this week when Merrill told an assistant county attorney that the county might have to find a new company to run the park if it is sticking to its version of the operation agreement. The family would still donate land for the park if the county remained committed to spending $14 million in tourism and sales taxes to build the facility.

Here's how Merrill explained his stance Wednesday: "If that's the direction it's going to go — if it's getting further away rather than closer to resolution — maybe you guys need to think of another plan for your operation and maintenance."

Porter and Merrill cited several problems with the county's proposed contract. Porter said the family needs control over scheduling at the park to ensure it attracts enough tournaments. The latest offer gives scheduling power to the county.

Merrill said the county asked for up to 8 percent of revenues even though the family would run the park, "free of charge with no risk" to the county. He said the proposal also gives the county control over naming rights, marketing and design.

"We are unwilling to agree to such an onerous operation and maintenance agreement," he said. "It's not fair and it's all one sided in favor of the county."

County Administrator John Gallagher said he is waiting for the Porters to put their objections in writing.

"I want a response before we have a meeting," he said. "Then we have a chance to analyze what they're going to say so we can have a beneficial meeting."

Merrill said the two sides have such deep disagreements about the contract that it won't help to continue trading drafts back and forth.

"We need to sit down and meet eyeball to eyeball and say, 'Here's where this needs to go,' " he said. "We certainly need to break through the ice on this and see if there is something that can work out. If not, we need to look at other alternatives that would make sense for the county and the Porters."

Lee Logan can be reached at or (727) 869-6236.

Wiregrass officials: County pushing a bad deal on sports complex 09/12/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 7:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival brings Major Lazer, safety upgrades to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa


    Somewhere beyond the barricades and mountainous LED stages of the Sunset Music Festival, there had to be worry. There had to thousands of parents in parking lots and empty kitchens, anxiously distracting their minds, every now and then checking their phones.

    Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
  2. 24-year-old man charged with murder in shooting at Andrea Cove Motel

    LARGO — Pinellas sheriff's officers arrested a 24-year-old transient man Saturday in connection with a homicide at the Andrea Cove Motel in unincorporated Largo.

  3. Photo gallery: Calvary Christian rolls to state title


    View a gallery of images from Calvary Christian's defeat of Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers for the Class 4A title.

    Calvary Christian players circle up on the field before the FHSAA class 4A baseball championship against Pensacola Catholic on Friday May 27, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary scored 6 runs in the first inning, and had 7 hits.
  4. Two girls found safe after being reported missing in New Port Richey

    UPDATE: Both girls were found safe Saturday night, police said.

  5. IT failure blamed for British Airways cancellations (w/video)


    LONDON — British Airways canceled all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday as a global IT failure upended the travel plans of tens of thousands of people on a busy U.K. holiday weekend.

    Passengers wait at a British Airways check-in desk after the airport suffered an IT systems failure Saturday at London''s Gatwick Airport. [Associated Press]