DADE CITY — When professional basketball hopefuls think of a premier place to show off their skills to NBA scouts, Pasco County has never before entered into the picture of possibilities.
Pasco’s marketing team would like that to change.
This week, the Pasco Tourist Development Council voted unanimously to spend $50,000 to become the title sponsor of the first ever Tampa Bay Pro Combine. The three-day event, June 3-5, will bring 40 draft-eligible college basketball prospects to the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus in Wesley Chapel. Operated for Pasco County by RADDSports, the venue opened last year and features a 98,000-square-foot facility with eight basketball courts.
Organizers decided on the event just six weeks ago, hoping to fill a niche left vacant when the decades-long tradition of the Portsmouth International Tournament in Virginia was canceled for the second year in a row because of COVID-19 restrictions, said Darryl Hepburn, a resident of the area who formerly played pro basketball internationally.
Carolyn Smith-Jones, who is marketing the event, told Pasco officials that the players alone for this event represent millions of social media followers who will be introduced to Pasco County and its Experience Florida Sports Coast brand. Social and traditional sports media from across the country are signed on to cover the event, which will include games and other activities at the Wiregrass venue.
The Tampa Bay Pro Combine is expected to produce more than 300 room nights not counting the impact of the families of the players. In addition to generating tourist tax for the county, Smith-Jones also said that the visitors will also bring in an estimated $15,000 in revenue to local restaurants and shops.
The organizers hope to get the event sanctioned by the NBA for future years and to develop a connection between the Pasco facility and future basketball events by bringing “attention on what is Florida’s Sports Coast and what is Pasco County,” Smith-Jones said.
Mike Moore, the chairman of the Tourist Development Council and Pasco County Commissioner, said the exposure possibilities for Pasco were “off the charts.” The title sponsorship gives the county mention in all the media releases and the brand is displayed on uniforms, banners and basketball back boards.
The $50,000 in funding will come from monies that council had originally planned to spend on a sponsorship of the Super Bowl, but then stepped away from because of the pandemic.