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  1. Pasco

To boost tourism, Pasco is now Florida's Sports Coast

Pasco County kicked off the rebranding of its tourism promotion effort to “Florida's Sports Coast”, with athletes/actors mixing with passengers at Tampa International Airport on Thursday. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
Pasco County kicked off the rebranding of its tourism promotion effort to “Florida's Sports Coast”, with athletes/actors mixing with passengers at Tampa International Airport on Thursday. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
Published Mar. 7, 2019

TAMPA — A 30-second advertisement posted on Twitter Thursday morning touted the offerings "30 minutes north of Tampa International Airport'' but made no specific mention of the exact location.

That was by design.

The ad is filled with images of people enjoying the water at Anclote Key Preserve, visiting a New Port Richey microbrewery and playing video games in the bar's arcade-like setting. It beckons: "Let's play in Florida's Sports Coast.''

The location is Pasco County and the Twitter post began the county's move to rebrand its tourism promotion efforts. In the past, the county's tourism office, Visit Pasco, used "It's only natural'' as a theme to promote ecotourism and outdoor events. Both catchphrases are now gone, replaced by "Florida's Sports Coast'' as the county's single tourism identity, a nod to both its investment in amateur athletics and a push to attract leisure sports enthusiasts.

To celebrate the rebranding kickoff, more than 100 people attended a ceremony at Tampa International Airport Thursday morning. They munched on typical sports-related tailgate fare: pulled pork, chicken wings, mini-Cuban sandwiches and hot pretzels with cheese prepared by Top Shelf Sports Lounge. That is the eatery and bar inside the Advent Health Center Ice complex in Wesley Chapel.

Some sipped on a new offering from Big Storm Brewing Co. — a pale ale with a blue label featuring paddles and waves. The company produced seven 31-gallon barrels for the initial offering of its Florida Sports Coast beer that will be brewed and canned throughout the year.

Meanwhile, so-called brand ambassadors — actors/athletes dressed in Florida Sports Coast basketball uniforms — visited with curious passengers in the terminal's concourse.

There was a reason for the hubbub. Sports is a $57 billion a year industry in Florida, said Marvin Green Jr., vice president of the Florida Sports Foundation. Pasco, trying to grab a bigger share of the sports-tourism market, is investing its tourist tax revenue into building a $44 million indoor sports complex and adjoining hotel in Wesley Chapel. Site work at the property began recently.

But the rebranding also is aimed at millennials who enjoy leisure sports and an active lifestyle. The Florida's Sports Coast web site at flsportscoast.com isn't targeting snowbirds in recreational vehicles. It features images of an array of adults — some with tattoos and one with a manbun — biking, hiking, golfing, or playing lacrosse, tennis, ice hockey and beach volleyball. In one shot a man is seen in a Nike "Excuses suck'' T-shirt.

"Really, who doesn't want to play in Florida?'' Green asked the audience.

Green had another reason for the visit. Afterward, he planned to tour Pasco County's parks to scout locations for flag football fields to be used during the Sunshine State games.

The Florida Sports Coast rebranding, first revealed in October, was devised by the Zimmerman Agency of Tallahassee.

Contact C.T. Bowen at ctbowen@tampabay.com or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2.

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