In hopes of adding one more venue and one more sport to Pasco’s tourism repertoire, the Tourist Development Council voted this week to spend $100,000 to create tournament-worthy beach volleyball sand courts at Sunwest Park.
Providing beach volleyball courts with appropriate equipment is going to draw tournament players, a group that tends to be more affluent, said Adam Thomas, director of Pasco’s Experience Florida’s Sports Coast destination management organization.
“Volleyball is one of the sports that brings in high-end economic impact,” Thomas said. Participants are often female and families often are willing to spend thousands of dollars to watch their children compete.
When added to the courts nearby at Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School, which also has a sand volleyball program, a tournament sponsor would have plenty of nets available in one area for a major competition, Thomas said. A venue needs enough volleyball courts in order to attract larger tournaments, which can bring dozens of teams.
During Wednesday’s Tourist Development Council meeting, survey information indicated that Sunwest Park, despite its beach and waterfront activities, didn’t score very high among participants ranking their favorite local venues. County Commission chairperson Jack Mariano thinks the new courts will help to change that.
Mariano, also chairperson of the tourism board, has long been a big cheerleader for Sunwest. In 2015, the park hosted a collegiate women’s volleyball event called Queen of the Beach, but the competition never returned. Now, Mariano said, it is the county’s park and is no longer managed by the private vendor, giving Pasco control over its own activities and promotional opportunities.
Sunwest Park is a recreational waterfront park off U.S. Highway 19 in northwest Pasco. Developed on the property of a former limerock mine, it includes a spring-fed lake, a white-sand beach and an inflatable playground run by a separate business.
Mariano said that Sunwest has always had the sand quality needed for this kind of sport. The new equipment is also going to allow another popular sport at the park — paddle tennis, he said.
“This is going to bring great attention to the park,” Mariano said.
Pasco Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources “has received multiple requests to host sand beach volleyball tournaments at Sunwest Park,” according to the memo to the tourist council. The money from a special projects fund “enables the purchase and installation of up to 18 tournament-quality volleyball courts including court preparation and all equipment with Florida’s Sports Coast branding, to market Pasco County as a destination and encourage new sports tournaments,” the memo stated.
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The posts for the nets are already in place at Sunwest, Thomas said. The tourism money will pay for all of the other equipment needed to hold full tournaments, and the activities would be managed by county parks and recreation.
Thomas said that the addition of beach volleyball has a double benefit in that it will bring visitors to Pasco to spend money in local establishments and fill local hotels, but with the branding of Florida Sports Coast on the equipment, it will also provide another promotional opportunity for people to learn about what Pasco has to offer.
“It is going to give us some brand awareness,” Thomas said.