Pasco keeps national lacrosse tournament
WESLEY CHAPEL - Three weeks after he warned county commissioners that Pasco County could lose the Dick's Sporting Goods Tournament of Champions lacrosse competition, Tourism Director Eric Keaton announced the good news. "We're keeping the tournament here for the next four years," Keaton said. Last year the tournament lured 79 high school age lacrosse teams from across the country, generating 3,700 hotel nights. Keaton said it has a $3 million economic impact for the Wesley Chapel area. "It's our biggest event," he said. Pasco County has hosted the national tournament since 2008 but risked losing it this year when the IMG Academy in Bradenton made a competing offer. "They're giving up 17 immaculate fields at IMG to stay with us," Keaton said.Commissioners quickly adopted the four-year agreement, which nearly triples the county's cash sponsorship from $22,500 to $65,000 in the first year. "This is a coup for Pasco County," Chairwoman Ann Hildebrand said. In addition, the county will be required to spend $4,500 this year to upgrade the Internet connectivity at the two locations so games can be streamed live. Those costs would be paid with Tourist Development funds. The tournament also could opt out in two years if the county hasn't added more fields or approved construction plans for a new facility in the Wesley Chapel area. County Administrator John Gallagher said he is still negotiating with Wiregrass Ranch development J.D. Porter for the development of a sports complex. Commissioner Jack Mariano urged them to finalize the negotiations or consider developing fields near the Saddlebrook Resort. "I don't want to lose this group," he said.
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