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Ground broken for Cypress Creek Ice and Sports Complex in Wesley Chapel

Published Feb. 26, 2015

WESLEY CHAPEL — Hockey sticks and pucks replaced shovels and hard hats Tuesday morning, even though a front-end loader and dump truck moved dirt where a Zamboni machine will travel across ice in about nine months.

The dichotomy came as more than 100 people gathered to celebrate the commencement of construction on the Cypress Creek Ice and Sports Complex. The $20 million, privately owned and operated facility, located near the State Road 56/Interstate 75 interchange, is about to be rechristened, however.

Florida Hospital has purchased the naming rights to the building as part of a 10-year partnership to provide education classes, performance training and other services. A public contest will help fill in the rest of the facility's name.

The complex will contain four ice pads, making it the largest rink in the South. Other amenities will include a multipurpose sports floor for other activities, including basketball, lacrosse and perhaps even arena football, said Gordon Zimmerman, managing partner of the development company, ZMitch LLC.

In the Tampa Bay region, there are five other ice facilities totaling just eight pads. And with the Cypress Creek building, the Tampa Bay Lightning set a goal to double the number of youth hockey participants in the region to 2,000 over the next five years, said Jay Feaster, the team's executive director of community hockey development.

"We will be good customers,'' Feaster said of the Lightning's use of the building.

Some youth players were in attendance Tuesday, including the three teenage sons of Zimmermann, who doubles as the club hockey coach at Wiregrass Ranch High School, and Madison Novotny, whose father, Jeff, is the immediate past president of the Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce. She plays on the Kissimmee-based Lady Vipers, the only girls team in Florida. Novotny joked that the motivation for the facility was reducing hockey parents' drive time to other arenas.

Besides the immediate lure to local residents, the facility will boost Pasco's sports tourism market, and its construction comes at an opportune time, considering that the yearlong flirtation with an amateur baseball complex at nearby Wiregrass Ranch is now starting over from scratch.

The facility, measuring 150,500 square feet, is projected to draw up to 2 million visitors annually, about 40 percent of whom will come from outside the Tampa Bay region.

State Rep. Danny Burgess, R-San Antonio, characterized Wesley Chapel as ground zero for economic development in the region. The ice complex facility is on the northeast side of the highway interchange. On the southwest quadrant, the Tampa Premium Outlets mall is under construction and scheduled to open in October. The ice arena is targeting a similar opening date.

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