ZEPHYRHILLS — City Council members reacted favorably to a proposal by two local civic leaders to build an events venue and stage on Zephyrhills Municipal Airport property.
Darrell Pennington, a founder of the Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce’s annual Pigz in Z’hills BBQ & Blues event, and Bob Winters of the Rotary Club of Zephyrhills, made the proposal at last week’s council meeting.
City Manager Steve Spina introduced the matter by talking about current and potential future events in Zephyrhills. He mentioned BBQ & Blues, said the Rotary Club might bring back a Celtic Festival and added the city is in “extremely early” talks with organizers of the Festival of Flight hot-air balloon event about perhaps bringing the event to Zephyrhills.
Such events, Spina said, “bring thousands of people to the community but they also require a lot of work and setup by volunteers. … It would make sense to build something more permanent.”
The proposed venue site is 10 to 12 acres at the corner of Airport Road and an unnamed dirt road north of South Avenue that runs along the border of Lincoln Heights.
“This idea just grew out of what we’ve watched going on for years and years and years,” Winters said. “We’ve always talked about what we could do at the airport. We’ve always been looking for a way to do bigger and better things. What it calls for is a commitment for the city to maintain the venue and bring it up to the standards it should be and to establish water and electricity out there.
“I’ve done a lot of things with the city. I’ve never seen anything we’ve talked about that has this much positive and very little negative.”
Pennington said local business people have staged events, offering their expertise at little or no cost. “They have stayed on board with me,” Pennington said. “But that’s not a promise that we can count on and expect every year.”
Pennington and Winters said that they would like to have electricity and water in place at the proposed site in time for BBQ & Blues in January. The stage would be a project for later. “Just putting in the power and the water at bare minimum this year would really get this project off to a good start,” Pennington said.
Winters called the proposal “a real logical thing.”
“This an outstanding opportunity to showcase our airport and to showcase our city,” he said.
Kevin Bahr, a member of the Thomas Promise Foundation’s board of directors, told city council members he supports the project. “We’re always looking for a place to have larger events in Zephyrhills,” he said. “With this venue we would be able to have a summer jam bring in water slides. We would be looking forward to being able to do this kind of thing and really enlarge this to bring in some more money to help the children out in this area.”