Saturday, February 17, 2018
Editorials

Pasco County should commit to sports marketing

The strategy of using sports as a tourist attraction is in need of a game-changer if Pasco County wants to remain competitive with other locales. Tuesday, county commissioners and the appointed Tourist Development Council learned two of the county's largest athletic-related draws are leaving Pasco and a third is being romanced by a nationally known venue in Bradenton.

Combined, the three events (the state high school cross country meet, an extreme cross country event called Tough Mudder and the Dick's Sporting Goods' national lacrosse tournament) generated 9,300 hotel night stays courtesy of a minimal public investment of $32,500 in tourism sponsorship money. It is a significant setback because the three events accounted for three-quarters of the 2011 hotel nights attributed to Pasco's sports marketing while only taking a little more than a third of the sponsorship dollars.

The bleak news followed a report from the Florida Sports Foundation that affirmed the position of sports marketing advocate Commissioner Jack Mariano: The county may be thinking too small as it considers a bricks-and-mortar project to broaden Pasco's tourism appeal.

The county now is in negotiations with the Porter Family to develop a privately operated, but publicly owned $25 million athletic field complex in Wesley Chapel to be known as Fields of Wiregrass.

That plan includes acres of soccer fields and a configuration of up to six softball fields. The commission has said it would commit up to $6 million in unspent tourism money on the project and also is considering a substantially smaller contribution to a proposed wake-boarding attraction at the yet-to-be-built county park adjacent to the proposed Sunwest Harbourtowne resort in Aripeka.

But, Stephen Rodriguez, vice president of the Florida Sports Foundation, offered other alternatives. The county should consider investing in a softball complex of at least eight fields to attract tournaments and/or build a 40,000-square-foot gymnasium and recreation center. That's almost three times the size of the existing county gyms in Land O'Lakes, Hudson and Holiday. The county has a sufficient inventory of soccer fields for the time being, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez pointed to the Estero Community Park Recreation Center in Lee County as a model. There, a 40,000-square-foot recreation center has three full basketball courts or four volleyball courts, locker rooms, fitness center, a computer lab, game room, teen center, art studio and several classrooms/meeting rooms. The facility is booked for events or competitions for three weekends this month alone.

Pasco County probably has room at the undeveloped second phase of the Wesley Chapel District Park, the original plans for which included a recreation center and swimming pool. But such an investment raises other questions. Lee County, for instance, charges membership fees for its facility and both Mariano and Commissioner Henry Wilson are looking to kill Pasco's park fees. Likewise, the ongoing maintenance costs have to be taken into account. In Lee County, a staff of 10 people is assigned to the recreation center.

Unfortunately, these ideas never were explored at the joint meeting of the commission and TDC, which instead dissolved into the minutiae of whether to cut $10,000 from the annual tourism grants allocated to local festivals.

The importance of sports marketing is underscored by the favorable return on investment. For $90,000 worth of sports event sponsorships, the county played host to 45,000 visitors, who booked 12,000 nights in local hotels and motels and produced an estimated economic impact of $10 million.

This was a missed opportunity. Commissioners can lament the success of sports marketing in neighboring Polk County or they can try to copy it with a commitment in facilities and financing that has eluded Pasco County for a dozen years.

Comments
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18
Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott always has been grudging and imperious about restoring the voting rights of felons, requiring them to wait for years before begging the governor and Cabinet to be recognized again as citizens. That arrogance is on full display in a le...
Published: 02/13/18
Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Immigrants brought into this country illegally as children by their parents may be wondering whom to trust. The political theater being played out in Washington hasnít settled the status of either the "Dreamers" or the estimated 11 million other undo...
Published: 02/13/18
Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

While it came as little surprise, the Tampa Bay Raysí selection of an Ybor City site near Tampaís Channel District as the best spot for a new stadium is an important milestone in the effort to keep Major League Baseball. Now comes the hard work of de...
Published: 02/09/18
Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

After pummeling public education so soundly last year, itís little surprise Republican state legislators are mounting another attack on public schools, teachers and local districts. The mammoth education bill passed by the House last week is loaded w...
Published: 02/08/18
Updated: 02/13/18