WESLEY CHAPEL - The Pasco County Commission has voted in favor of securing a $12 million loan aimed at enhancing the Wiregrass Sports Campus in Wesley Chapel. The funds will be allocated towards developing sports fields and various other facilities. The commission's decision was primarily supported by Tourist Development Tax dollars as a means to repay the loan.
Chairman Jack Mariano was the lone dissenting vote, urging his colleagues to postpone the decision in order to explore alternative repayment options. Mariano suggested looking into funds like Penny for Pasco or park impact fees. Despite his reservations, stating that the board needed more details, the majority of commissioners disagreed and proceeded with the vote.
Adam Thomas, the director of tourism for Florida’s Sports Coast, emphasized the county’s commitment to the family who donated the land for the campus. He also pointed out that Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus plays a significant role in the county's sports tourism agenda.
Commissioners Seth Weightman, Kathryn Starkey, and Ron Oakley were vocal in their disapproval of a delay, citing that the project is already three years behind schedule. "We need to go forward and make sure we do the right thing," Oakley said.
The improvements planned for the campus include five new multipurpose sports fields equipped with lighting, parking spaces, a concession stand with restrooms, three pavilions, a multi-use trail, and additional landscaping. Stormwater ponds and a roadway loop for easier team access to the fields are also in the works.
Thomas, who oversees the county’s tourism efforts, warned against using multiple funding sources, arguing that it could compromise the availability of the fields for tourism-related events. The total cost for the project is estimated at $14.9 million, which will be covered by the $12 million loan and other county funding sources. This includes $6.6 million for exterior improvements, $1.7 million for building costs, $4.6 million for field development, $1.3 million for electrical work, $450,000 for landscaping and irrigation, and a $250,000 contingency.
By pushing forward with this development, the county aims to not only fulfill its contractual obligations but also to elevate Wesley Chapel as a hub for sports tourism.