NEW PORT RICHEY – After a $3 million upgrade at New Port Richey's Sims Park, city leaders are worried about the wear and tear on the park from the litany of special events held there.
City Council members also are scrutinizing the quality of those downtown events that they characterized as a part of molding the image of New Port Richey.
The discussions came Monday during a City Council work session with invited event planners, downtown business owners and residents.
Deputy Mayor Jeff Starkey kicked off the meeting by suggesting event planners step up their offerings with better and fresher food, avoidance of a carnival atmosphere, and eliminating the convoluted practices of selling food tickets at some events which caused people to stand in lines twice to get something to eat.
Starkey also called for smaller, niche events like a past wine-and-cheese fundraiser he said the public enjoyed and which brought a positive image to the park.
"Sims Park is in demand for events. We should be demanding better quality events," he said.
That demand, Council member Chopper Davis said, is leading to wear and tear to the parks new improvements that also needs to be addressed.
Chasco Fiesta Executive Director Geoffrey Kranich acknowledged that concern. He said less use of golf carts by his volunteers throughout the park is being discussed. Also under consideration is a golf cart parking area.
The downtown special events, and city subsidies to their operations, have been a source of past controversy. During the prolonged economic downturn, then-City Council members debated pulling the plug on all special event funding including the Chasco Fiesta held each March. The Council also considered eliminating contributions to the New Port Richey Main Street program, which puts on events such as Seafood Fest and the holiday boat parade.
This week's work session had a more positive tone. Council received repeated praise for its strides in renovating Sims Park.
Some ideas for improvements included creating guidelines that all special events need to follow, and establishing a special events citizens committee to develop other upgrades.
Several speakers suggested using shuttles to and from events which would aid parking, while adding to the event options that could be offered elsewhere in the city. Better marketing of events and giving more advanced notice to residents who will be affected by events also made the list of possible improvements.
City resident and former Pasco School District Superintendent Heather Fiorentino also suggested marketing the city's other parks as possible places for planners to hold events.
"I think you need to sell the other parks in our city," she said.
Spreading of events to locales other than Sims Park also was broached by City Council member Bill Phillips who has long called for more use of the city's downtown core and Railroad Square that was constructed to hold events but has been under utilized.