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Letters to the Editors

Stadium plan raises questions

© St. Petersburg Times
published December 8, 2002

Editor: For the second time in two months, we, like others, went to a Pasco County Commission meeting to voice objections to the now-passed tennis stadium. As citizens who have been heavily involved in many community activities for the past 25 years, we are deeply disturbed with the way a $5.7-million expense was railroaded through.

Two months ago, the commission and the Tourist Development Council met and listened to Tom Dempsey, the owner of Saddlebrook, make his proposal. At that meeting, no one was allowed to speak. We took time from work to go across the county to Dade City to be heard, but we could not. Tuesday night, we did the same thing and again were not allowed to speak. Mr. Dempsey, however, was.

We are not saying that Saddlebrook and Mr. Dempsey are not important to Pasco. That could not be further from the truth.

There were a lot of important questions we wanted to ask but couldn't. The first question is in regard to the early 1980s, when the Eckerd Open was held at East Lake Woodlands. After several years, Eckerd Drugs withdrew its sponsorship, and the tournament left in just a matter of weeks. This shows the extreme importance of securing a title sponsor. We know of no such effort in place in Pasco.

When Saddlebrook made its proposal, it chose to talk about the three major events on the U.S. circuit and not a relatively small event like we might get. Most venues that can find a corporate sponsor get a tournament, and those that do not have a sponsor rarely get the opportunity. It would have seemed more prudent to have worked to line up a sponsor prior to construction. Let us not forget that Tampa built the old Tampa Stadium and it sat for nine years before getting a team, and Tropicana Field waited eight years for a baseball team.

In Tampa, they had to spend $20-million in 1975 to actually get a team, and St. Petersburg spent over $50-million when it landed the Devil Rays. Didn't we put the cart before the horse?

Another point in the proposal we found to be a misconception was the press it would bring to our area. In all likelihood, any tournament we get would at best draw a third-tier cable channel with very small coverage. Last September, we were in California and Nevada during the PGA tournament at Innisbrook. The dateline each day read "Tampa Bay," not Palm Harbor or Pinellas County. We must understand that we are part of Tampa Bay to the rest of the country, and that is where the credit will be given.

Unfortunately, this probably signals the demise of an alternate venue that could attract tourists and benefit the youth organizations and civic organizations that are so vital to Pasco County. After Tuesday's vote was handled in such a closed manner, we are equally concerned about the possible loss of events that bring tourists to our county, raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for local charities each year and bring our communities closer together.
-- Greg and Cynthia Armstrong, New Port Richey

Commissioners need to rethink priorities

Editor: I see the commissioners did it again and passed a tennis stadium.

Maybe now the commissioners and all their rich friends will have a place to play. Tourists don't come here to play tennis. They swim, go to the beach, fish, boat and camp.

We have been on water conservation for over a year. Our schools are a big letdown for our children. The highways are parking lots. Seniors can't afford their medications. And commissioners are concerned about tourists and tennis facilities? Talk about priorities being messed up. Let's take care of the citizens living here, please.
-- Barbara Detwiler, New Port Richey

Pasco will be the loser in tennis stadium deal

Editor: The County Commission voted to support a tennis stadium in the Wesley Chapel area of Pasco County.

If the stadium will seat 3,500, and the hotels in the immediate area have only 500 rooms and the sprinkling of restaurants in close proximity to the stadium can seat 400 persons, is it logical to then wonder where all the tourists will eat or sleep when they attend a tournament at the new stadium if such a tournament would be held there at all?

My guess is that Bruce B. Downs Boulevard will lead the tourists south to Hillsborough County, where all the new restaurants and proposed hotels in that county will profit from the overflow. Pasco County will ultimately be the loser in this venture.

I do, however, applaud some of the commissioners for at least having consistency in the way they vote. It goes along with their allowing developers to build homes without roads or schools or any other needed community infrastructure to support the new growth.
-- Kent Abrams, Wesley Chapel

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