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Year in review: New ice complex helps Pasco sets tourism record in 2017

LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times  The U.S. women's national team takes on Sweden in the Four Nations Cup at Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel in November. The ice complex opened in January 2017 and was one of the signifcant developments in Pasco's tourism industry this year.
LOREN ELLIOTT | Times The U.S. women's national team takes on Sweden in the Four Nations Cup at Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel in November. The ice complex opened in January 2017 and was one of the signifcant developments in Pasco's tourism industry this year.
Published Dec. 26, 2017

WESLEY CHAPEL — It was a record year for tourism with Pasco County collecting $1.15 million in bed tax revenue during the 2017 fiscal year.

And it is a number that likely will never be that small again. Even if the number of visitors remains steady in 2018, the county's revenue will be twice as much.

The mathematics comes courtesy of Pasco commissioners who agreed to double the tourist tax rate beginning Oct. 1., the first increase since voters approved the tax on overnight accommodations in 1990.

It was one reasons Pasco's tourism industry changed dramatically in 2017.

In January, the privately owned $22.5 million Florida Hospital Center Ice opened in Wesley Chapel and immediately lured the U.S. women's national team for its training camp in advance of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. College and youth hockey players also filled the ice rink, the largest in the southeastern United States.

In August, commissioners increased the tourist tax to 4 percent to finance the county's portion of a $45 million indoor sports center and hotel in the Wiregrass Ranch development. The tax increase also is intended to help pay for $5 million worth of new boat ramps and trailer parking on the west side of the county as Pasco prepares for what it hopes to be a seasonal influx of people fishing for scallops starting in 2018.

To house the visitors, two new hotels opened and four more are under construction along the state Road 54/56 corridor from Lutz to Wesley Chapel.

Leading the tourism charge for Pasco County is Adam Thomas who started in September as the county's new tourism director after four years in Citrus County.

C.T. Bowen, Times Staff Writer

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