Pasco County has taken full control of its premier sports venue, vowing to “make the Florida Sports Coast into a premier sports tourism destination.”
Commissioners voted Tuesday to settle their legal case with RADDSports, the company that in 2017 was granted sole management rights to run the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus when it opened in 2020. Under terms of the deal, Pasco County will take over management and operation of the complex immediately and buy out RADDSports for $3 million, paid out over the next four years.
“Pasco County and RADDSports are working together to ensure a seamless management transition to minimize disruptions of Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus programming and events,” according to the joint news release agreed to by both parties in the settlement.
Wiregrass Ranch was built by the county using $29 million in tourist tax revenue and with the donation of property by the Porter family. The goal was for Pasco to snag a share of the sports tourism market, which generates an estimated $10 billion a year.
While the venue has brought much attention to Pasco County since it opened, the relationship between the county and RADDSports began to sour, with Pasco declaring the company in default of its agreement in October. Pasco officials claimed that the company had not kept up its part of the bargain to make sports tourism its prime focus. Instead, Pasco argued, the company had put too much emphasis on sponsoring local sports events.
One major partner in the enterprise was the hotel built next to the campus, the Residence Inn at Wesley Chapel, which voiced concern with Pasco officials that the revenue expected from tourists coming to the campus for events didn’t materialize.
Filling those beds was important to the county as well since the bed tax is the funding mechanism used to pay for future promotions for tourism to the county.
RADDSports officials immediately told the county that their assessment was incorrect, and several weeks after the default declaration, the company filed a lawsuit against Pasco County claiming it had violated its 20-year contract.
The settlement approved Tuesday gives the county 45 days to inspect the facilities and, if everything is acceptable, the county will issue a check to RADDSports for $1,094,000, the first year’s settlement amount, plus funds to pay for furniture and fixtures on the campus. Additional checks for $500,000 would then be paid out each of the next four years, provided the terms of the agreement are met.
Keep up with all things Pasco County
Subscribe to our free Pasco Times newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Among those terms, RADDSports will not be allowed to submit a request to operate any sports facility in Pasco County through the four-year anniversary of the date that the county took over the campus or solicit for any county tourism events set out in the settlement during that timeframe.
The county will assume control of the local programming currently scheduled at the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus, but reserves the right to reschedule or cancel the local programming after the turnover date, according to the memo to the commission from the county attorney. RADDSports will assist the county with those events through the turnover date.
“We thank RADDSports for helping design and launch this amazing facility, which essentially serves as the centerpiece of Florida’s Sports Coast, and for its cooperation to allow the county to bring in-house the going-forward operation of the facility,” according to the joint news release.
The county also assures local sports interests that the Wiregrass Ranch will still serve them. “Pasco County Parks, Recreation & Natural Resources is honoring all prior event contracts, making sure local sports enthusiasts continue to have access to our world-class facilities,” according to the release.
Commissioners did not comment before voting 3 to 0 on the settlement, except for Commissioner Seth Weightman, who abstained from voting due to a potential conflict, noting that there was a waste collection agreement as part of the operation. He is employed by Republic Services. Commissioner Gary Bradford was absent from the meeting.