Florida’s Sports Coast isn’t coasting right now.
The third weekend in April explains why. April 17-19 was shaping up to be a significant time for Pasco’s sports-tourism industry. More than 1,350 adult hockey players and 3,500 soccer kids were expected to simultaneously crowd the AdventHealth Center Ice in Wesley Chapel and the county’s soccer fields in central and west Pasco.
Both events are now off the books, two of the eight sports events planned for Pasco that have been canceled due to the coronavirus.
Combined, the eight events were expected to generate an estimated 7,372 hotel room nights and an economic impact of nearly $5.4 million for local businesses.
Adam Thomas, director of the county’s tourism arm, known as Florida’s Sports Coast, shared the grim data Friday morning during a virtual town hall meeting chaired by Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey in New Port Richey.
“We really can’t afford to lose any more,’’ Thomas said.
The overall losses pale next to the city of Tampa and the region as a whole, which is losing March Madness college basketball, Wrestlemania, baseball spring training and other sports events. But the economic impact is significant in Pasco County.
Already, the Hampton Inn in Dade City has closed its doors temporarily, said Thomas, and others are operating with skeleton crews. The canceled events helped support an estimated 2,360 jobs.
The biggest hit came from USA Hockey. Its adult men’s and adult women’s national championships were scheduled for consecutive weekends at the AdventHealth Center Ice in Wesley Chapel. The two events were expected to bring more than 2,000 hockey players to the area, resulting in nearly 3,750 hotel room nights.
The other canceled events include an Amateur Athletic Union Florida karate tournament, the Savage Race and Savage Blitz in Dade City, the Gran Fondo Florida bicycle race, the Florida Premier soccer club’s spring tournament, the American Junior Golf Association event at Saddlebrook and the Caliente Dare to Bare run in Land O’ Lakes.
The shutdowns started after the county realized its most successful February ever in tourist tax collections, with $360,000, Thomas said. The numbers for March were not available Friday morning. The county collected $450,000 in tourist taxes in March 2019.
The positive news, he said, was that organizations continue to book events for 2021, which could result in a banner year for the hotel and hospitality industry because of pent up demand. The Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus of Pasco County, the 98,000-square-foot indoor sports center, also remains on target for a July conclusion to its construction, he said.
“Sobering and exciting, I guess,’’ Starkey said.
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