1. Business

Zip line course sprouts outside Dade City

DADE CITY — A new high-flying outdoor adventure is coming to the woods outside Dade City.

Crews have begun building a zip line adventure course on a 60-acre tract at 27839 Saint Joe Road. The owners pledged to put $2 million into the park, which will feature more than 100 aerial features for customers ages 5 and older.

The park, called TreeHoppers, is slated to open in August and its developers say it will be a destination site for the Tampa Bay area and beyond.

"There is nothing like it anywhere in Florida," TreeHoppers CEO Benjamin Nagengast said.

His company, under the name Saint Joe Ranch LLC, purchased the property in March for $750,000, according to Pasco County records. The land has several acres of hills, live oak trees, and a 5-acre lake where the park will hold eight adventure courses with dozens of zip lines, rope bridges and other aerial climbing features.

TreeHoppers is the first such development in Florida for its owners, who currently run the White River Zip Lines park, White River Paintball complex, and Indy Scream Park haunted house attraction outside Indianapolis.

The zip line and climbing course in Dade City is slated to take up two-thirds of the 60 acres, with a second but yet to be announced attraction to be constructed on the rest of the property, according to TreeHoppers spokesman Jon Pianki.

Pianki said the company will spend about $1 million building the zip line courses and surrounding amenities and will be using local contractors and suppliers, which will be an economic boon for the area. He added that every effort will be made to preserve the forest in building the park.

"We want to remove as little as possible," Pianki said. "We want people in the trees. We want people involved in the nature."

Like the park in Indiana — which is on 100 acres and features 10 tower-to-tower zip lines where speeds of up to 30 mph can be reached — customers will be outfitted with safety gear and be instructed by trained climbing monitors.

The owners of TreeHoppers are not the only ones looking to cash in on the zip line experience, with Bradenton-based TreeUmph! entering into a partnership with Hernando County to open zip lines and trails next year on 47 acres east of Brooksville.

In Dade City, there is excitement among local business leaders who hope TreeHoppers will draw tourist dollars to the area. It's another addition to Pasco County, which has been putting a big emphasis on eco-tourism and outdoor activities in recent years, according to Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce executive director John Moors.

"It looks like an interesting attraction and certainly would be one more reason to come visit this area," Moors said of TreeHoppers.

Moors said the Dade City area and east Pasco could become a big draw for such businesses geared toward the outdoors with the construction of several bicycle trails slated for the area as well.

"I think there will be a continued interest because we have the space," he said.