Youth hockey players across the Tampa Bay area will no longer have a shortage of ice with the announcement Thursday of a $17 million skating complex that developers say would be the largest in Florida.
The project, to be located at Interstate 75 and State Road 56 in Wesley Chapel, would feature four rinks, including one that could be converted for lacrosse, basketball and soccer.
"It's a great win for Pasco County; it's a win for the region," Pasco County Commission Chairman Jack Mariano said during a news conference in which developer Gordie Zimmermann unveiled site plans. He closed on the 13-acre property earlier in the day for about $2.6 million from Skinner Brothers Realty.
The overall cost is about $20 million, all from private investors that Zimmermann says have already committed to the project. The two-story complex will feature one Olympic and two standard-size rinks, and one that can be converted to meeting space. Upstairs includes a restaurant that overlooks three ice rinks. Developers also announced that a 120-room hotel is planned south of the complex.
Zimmermann, a former amateur player who also was general manager at the hockey complex in Brandon and whose son plays for Wiregrass Ranch High School in Wesley Chapel, said he hopes to launch a hockey academy in addition to public skating and adult leagues. The developer, Z Mitch LLC, will break ground as soon as it gets permits, with an expected opening by fall 2015.
Former Tampa Bay Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk turned on a ceremonial table lamp Thursday to kick Developers expect the ice rink complex to bring 20 permanent jobs and 20 part-time jobs.
Some in the Tampa Bay area skating community remained skeptical about Zimmermann's plans. Pat DeLorenzo, an NHL official and owner of a tire and auto repair business in Clearwater, is in talks to build a $10 million rink off State Road 54 near the Grove shopping center — less than a 5-mile drive from Zimmermann's site. Four other facilities with seven rinks operate within 55 miles of each other — in Clearwater, Oldsmar, Brandon and Ellenton.
Pasco tourism director Ed Caum has met with Zimmermann and DeLorenzo. He doubts both could succeed if operating at the same time. "I think the first out of the gate will be able to capitalize on the market now," he said.