WESLEY CHAPEL — One of the men who helped bring the Ice Sports Forum to Brandon announced a plan Wednesday to build Florida's largest hockey and ice skating facility in Wesley Chapel.
Gordie Zimmermann, one-time general manager of the Brandon facility, unveiled the $20 million proposal to Pasco's Tourist Development Council. The 150,000-square-foot sports facility would be built off Interstate 75 at the State Road 56 interchange and would have four full-sized rinks, including one Olympic-sized hockey rink.
“The tournament factor is a huge part of why we need four pads,” Zimmermann said. “We want to be able to attract teams from Canada. Their favorite place to be able to host Olympic events is in Florida.”
The larger, Olympic-sized rink could accommodate other winter sports, such as speed skating and sled hockey, which is played in the Paralymics.
The Tampa Bay area has a thriving youth hockey market - including 17 area high school teams - as well as adult leagues and a growing figure skating community. But all those skaters must compete for limited ice time, Zimmermann said.
“I have three sons who play ice hockey, and I coach the Wiregrass (Ranch High School) hockey team,” he said. “We've got kids who live in Dade City, and we have to go to Brandon to practice. When we can't get ice time there, we have to go all the way to Ellenton.”
One of the rinks would be located in a 20,000-square-foot multi-purpose space that could be converted for indoor sports, such as tennis, basketball, volleyball and arena football. It also could host large meetings and even high school graduations.
“That sounds phenomenal,” Commission Chairman Jack Mariano said. “I especially like the part about us not having to go to USF to do our graduations.”
The largest skating facility in Florida, Germain Arena near Fort Myers, has three rinks. Facilities in Brandon, Oldsmar and Ellenton each have two, while Clearwater Ice Arena has one
Zimmermann said the project would be privately funded, though he did not reveal the names of his investors. He said his company, ZMitch, has the 13-acre parcel under contract and expects to close on the property by May.