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Sunday, Apr 22, 2018
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SunWest Park is ‘going to come to fruition this year’

ARIPEKA — Pasco County Commission Chairman Jack Mariano said Thursday he’s still confident the county will be able to open its SunWest Park this summer, now that bids have been opened for the park construction.

Three companies submitted qualifying bids for the work. Mariano said the bids are much closer to the county’s budget.

“It’s going to come to fruition this year,” Mariano said. “It won’t be on Tuesday’s agenda, but it’ll probably be the first meeting in April.”

The county has earmarked $4.6 million for the future wakeboarding park and beach at SunWest, but only one contractor bid on the project during the initial round in January, and that bid came in at more than $8 million.

County Administrator Michele Baker said the project manager is reviewing the details of each bid document down to the type of sand used on the beach. “We’re comparing the pricing,” she said. “It looks like we could potentially award something that meets our budget requirements.”

Mariano and Baker worked out a deal with SunWest Harbourtowne developer Gary Grubb to donate mass grading services for the beach that shaved millions from the project cost. Grubb started scraping the shorelines in mid-February.

“It looks so much bigger now, just from scraping they’ve already done,” Mariano said. “Every day there’s more progress. I stood where the volleyball section is going to be, and the view is incredible.”

The park would include beaches on the south and west shores of the lake and a 500-space parking lot. The master plan calls for later phases with a boardwalk with restaurants, a splash park, shops and an amphitheater.

The county is negotiating with wake park operator Pat Panakos to build a wakeboarding park at SunWest and to maintain the county park. Panakos has said his plans include a high ropes course, zipline and play area for inflatables.

Mariano said the board likely will vote on the Panakos contract before it awards a bid for the park construction. The item was slated for Tuesday’s meeting but will be postponed until early April, he said.

“We need to have an operator before we pull the trigger on the next phase,” he said.

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