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Sports complex proposals include gyms, fields, amphitheaters for Wiregrass Ranch

WESLEY CHAPEL — Four companies bidding to be Pasco County's partner in a sports-tourism complex are offering ideas ranging from indoor gymnasiums to outdoor amphitheaters to hotels to a sports bar just for adults.

The proposals are to be considered next week by a county committee before a recommendation is forwarded to the Pasco County Commission. The county has set aside $8.5 million in tourist tax revenue, and the Porter family has donated 120 acres for the project within the Wiregrass Ranch development.

The county asked private companies to submit proposals to build and operate a sports-tourism complex after a Chicago-based consulting firm, Johnson Consulting, recommended last year that Pasco pursue an indoor multipurpose center of at least 85,000 square feet capable of playing host to an array of indoor youth sports, including volleyball, basketball, wrestling, martial arts, gymnastics, cheerleading and other events.

Companies submitting proposals include: Sports Facilities Management of Clearwater, which has worked previously with the county on its tourism efforts; Holladay Properties of Indianapolis, which has a portfolio of multiuse projects in Indiana and Richmond, Va.; a newly formed Land O'Lakes company called USCA Management Co., and a joint proposal from luxury resort and hotel developer Mainsail Development Group of Tampa, financier Municipal Acquisitions of Washington, D.C., and RADDSPORTS of Sarasota.

RADDSPORTS is headed by Richard Blalock, the former parks and recreation director for the city of Newberry, who helped that city and Alachua County develop a 16-stadium baseball and softball complex called Nations Park in 2012 and the Easton-Newberry Sports Complex, which combines an archery center with city recreation facilities.

Among the highlights of each submission:

• Sports Facilities Management proposes a $16.5 million project, including a 92,000-square-foot building to hold six full-size basketball courts or 12 volleyball courts, with roll-out synthetic turf for indoor fields, food service and a so-called adventure and entertainment area. It projects a profit by the second year of operation. Its proposal included four letters of intent from promoters interested in renting the future facility for athletic competitions.

The company already manages Rocky Top Sports World in Gatlinburg, Tenn., and the Myrtle Beach Sports Center in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and it has been involved in helping to develop seven other amateur sports complexes around the country.

Sports Facilities Management's founder is Dev Pathik, who was retained by the county in 2014 to help guide a rewrite of its tourism strategic plan.

• RADDSPORTS proposes as its first phase an estimated $14 million, 98,000-square-foot center with eight basketball courts and dedicated space for gymnastics, cheerleading and a fitness center; a $15 million, 100-room Mainsail Mariott hotel; room for a second hotel, and outdoor sports fields doubling as the lawn for an open-air amphitheater. A second phase would include five baseball fields and an indoor baseball academy.

It includes three separate financing options, including a plan to raise the county's 2 percent tourist tax to 5 percent on all overnight accommodations.

• USCA (Ultimate Sports Complex Athletics) Management Co. just formed in June and is headed by Michael Sean Fernandez of Land O'Lakes. It proposes three separate buildings measuring up to 100,000 square feet each for competitions and training, as well as an indoor go-cart track and bowling alleys. It also includes a proposed 25,000-square-foot sports bar and game complex for adults.

It projects a $29 million operating profit based on a half-million visitors in the first year. Fernandez, in an interview, said he figured he would need to raise $40 million, plus the county's contribution, to build the complex.

"I want to create the ultimate sports complex. Basically what I'm trying to do is not just have another rec center,'' Fernandez said. "It's kind of like (ESPN) Wide World of Sports all in one place. That's why there's the enormity and the versatility.'

• Holladay Properties of South Bend, Ind., proposed master planning a 224-acre complex to include the sports facility, hotel, outdoor fields and an amphitheater. The company offered to partner with the county in developing the site, but did not submit a proposal to serve as the project's operator after construction is completed. It acknowledges its submittal does not follow the county's request.

Commissioner Mike Moore, whose district includes the Wiregrass Ranch site, is eager for the project to move forward.

"This is something that will separate us not only from the region, but also in the state of Florida. Nobody else has a facility comparable to that,'' Moore said. "When you think about indoor facilities, it is something we can use year round. You talk about tourism, you don't have to be seasonal with this.''

Commissioner Jack Mariano, who has panned the notion that an indoor sports complex would be the best use of Pasco's tourism dollars, remained noncommittal. He favors outdoor athletic fields.

"I'm going to look at it,'' said Mariano, "but do I think we need more fields first? Yes.''

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