WESLEY CHAPEL — Pasco County’s new turf fields across from the Wesley Chapel District Park are finished — ahead of schedule and under budget.
Last year county commissioners agreed to spend $2 million of tourist tax dollars to build the fields, which can be used for soccer, football and lacrosse. But commissioners rejected the first set of bids last August when they all came in well over budget.
Project Manager Roberto Saez said that by rebidding the project, the county was able to shave more than $300,000 from the original bid, and the contractor finished 44 days ahead of schedule.
Tourism Director Ed Caum said the parking lot still needs one more coat of asphalt, and the county needs to install finishing touches, such as trash receptacles and signs. “We need to make up special signs asking the players not to chew gum or eat sunflower seeds on our nice, new turf fields,” he said.
Since the fields were financed with tourism tax dollars, they are owned and managed by the tourism office — not the parks department. They were specifically designed to attract tournament play.
“We’re going to hold off until Oct. 1 to start marketing the fields,” Caum said.
The delay shouldn’t affect the revenue projections. Caum said there isn’t very high demand for field rentals during the hot summer months. It was critical the fields be ready this winter for the 2014 Dick’s Sporting Goods Lacrosse Tournament of Champions — the county’s largest tourist event.
The tournament generates about $3.5 million in economic impact, but it had outgrown the district park. The county risked losing the event, held annually between Christmas and New Year’s, unless it expanded the number of fields.
Caum said county commissioners need to approve a fee schedule for the turf fields. Caum said comparable fields rent for $100 per hour, compared to the $15 hourly fee charged by the parks department.