County looks to new athletic facility as revenue generator

The Hillsborough County Tournament SportsPlex hosts its first event in December and expects to generate $7.3 million in 2019.
BRONTE WITTPENN   |   TimesPeople gather to watch the lighting of the score board at the Hillsborough County Tournament Sportsplex near Brandon on Thursday, November 1, 2018. The Sportsplex includes 15 full-size, multipurpose fields for football, soccer, lacrosse, rugby, field hockey and cricket.
BRONTE WITTPENN | TimesPeople gather to watch the lighting of the score board at the Hillsborough County Tournament Sportsplex near Brandon on Thursday, November 1, 2018. The Sportsplex includes 15 full-size, multipurpose fields for football, soccer, lacrosse, rugby, field hockey and cricket.
Published November 6

TAMPA — County and sports officials are raving about the millions of dollars of economic benefits the $17.3 million Hillsborough County Tournament SportsPlex is expected to generate after it opens in January.

“Isn’t this place awesome? What this will do for tourism and hotel room occupancy in this portion of town is going to be dramatic,” said Eric Hart, president and CEO of the Tampa Sports Authority (TSA), which is managing the 65-acre complex for the county.

County Commission Chairman Sandra Murman called the complex ”a labor of love”.

It is expected the complex will generate $7.3 million in economic impact during first year of operation and $25 million by its fifth year.

“The SportsPlex will improve the marketability of Hillsborough County as a destination for amateur sports tournaments,” said County Commissioner Ken Hagan, who was credited for his years-long vision and support that helped make the complex possible.

“I can’t wait to see the fields full of kids,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp.

The tournament sports complex, located on Columbus Drive near Falkenburg Road, has been in the planning for more than a decade. The county put it on the fast track two years ago when bids awarding bids for its design and construction.

Construction costs are being covered by the county, tourist development taxes, and the Hillsborough County Tourist Development Council.

“We came in on time and within budget,” said Project Manager Chris Postiglione.

At a preview event on Nov. 1, a GPS-operated robot rolled across 15 very green sports fields to paint white lines for future games.

Those fields are designed to accommodate a wide variety of sports from soccer to cricket, lacrosse, football, rugby, and field hockey.

Night games will be illuminated with premium LED lighting.

A nearly-completed building sits in the center of the complex and will include restrooms, a concession area, and a second floor viewing area for coaches to monitor games playing on the surrounding fields.

The complex includes 330 parking spaces and two sets of aluminum bleachers that can seat 300 people. It is located close to both Interstates 4 and 275, and is within 10 minutes of more than 6,000 hotel rooms.

In addition, downtown entertainment and restaurant venues, Tampa International Airport, and area attractions are all within a 10-20 minute drive.

The complex, which is a partnership between the county, theTSA, and the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, will host a small event on Dec. 8, a College Soccer Exposure Showcase Girls’ Camp, and its first major event, the U.S. Flag and Touch Football League National Championships in January.

The January event is expected to attract up to 400 teams that are estimated to involve up to 40 people per team who will be staying in the Tampa Bay area during the tournament.

In addition, TSA Executive Director Rob Higgins announced the USA Field Hockey National Hockey Festival has booked the complex for November 2019.

That festival will involve 3,000 athletes, 175 teams, 450 coaches, 4,500 spectators, fans and families, and more than 100 college coaches, according to Higgins.

Contact Sheila Estrada at [email protected]

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