Pasco declares Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus manager in default

NEW PORT RICHEY — RADDSports, the company Pasco County hired to run the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus, has defaulted on its management agreement, the Pasco County Commission determined Tuesday.

The company was supposed to market the campus as a tourism destination. Instead 92% of its activities in the first year and 74% in the second were local events.

In fact, the county has been told that the company actually worked against tourism events in favor of local events.

RADDSports officials and their attorney urged the commission not to approve the default letter on Tuesday. They said they were committed to working with Pasco to continue to make the sports campus successful.

The logo for the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus of Pasco County [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]

Anthony Homer, the chief operating officer, told commissioners that the company was “shocked and blindsided” when they saw the default letter on the board’s agenda. He said the company wasn’t notified that the county was going to take that step.

“We’d love to come to the table” to work out differences, Homer said, citing a long relationship with Pasco.

Attorney Edward Colin Thompson told commissioners that his client still has 18 years left on its contract and is committed to “make this the premier sports facility in the country.” He also said the default was in his mind a termination letter that could land the parties in court.

He also said the concerns about promoting local use of the facility over tourism was just the latest in several disputes with the county, including over use of fields and naming rights.

Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus has been the county’s spotlight location for its Experience Florida’s Sports Coast brand. While the county’s Destination Management Organization promotes sports tourism throughout the county, including the Wiregrass campus, it hired RADDSports to manage the facility and focus on building its status as an event venue for sports tourism.

Commissioners did approve the default letter without pulling it for discussion from their consent agenda, which is usually reserved for what are considered non-controversial decisions. The letter gives RADDSports a month to remedy its contractual problems.

The approval included the county paying law firm Carlton Fields up to $200,000 to handle the default case. Commissioners also agreed to a plan to have Pasco’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources, along with tourism officials, take over management and promotion of the campus at a cost of approximately $2.9 million in the short term until another management plan is approved.

The lack of focus on tourism has had several poor results, according to the default letter by the county’s attorney.

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“The overwhelming majority of events hosted by RADDSports at the sports park property are local events, which do not require overnight stays at the sports park hotel. RADDSports has a primary obligation to host tourism events at the sports park property and, in connection with such events, to market the sports park hotel for overnight stays to non-county residents,” the letter states.

The hotel operator “has significant concerns” about RADDSports operation and asked for the county’s help to protect its interests. Ensuring the hotel, the Residence Inn at Wesley Chapel, stays booked is a priority for the county because the county uses the proceeds from bed tax to pay for future tourism promotion.

The county’s lawyer also said that the county was told by multiple sources who tried to bring lucrative events to the hotel and campus “that RADDSports was not helpful, was at times rude and hostile, and gave the impression that RADDSports was actively working against accommodating their groups.”

In one case, the letter alleges that RADDSports “even refused to host a youth volleyball event, at which the sale of alcoholic beverages is strictly prohibited, unless the organizers agreed to ‘buy out’ the anticipated alcohol sales.”

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