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Business

Tourist attractions get even friendlier

Plans for a tournament-worthy golf course and the newest nudist resort aim to lure visitors with luxury.

By JAMES THORNER
Published February 15, 2004

Pasco County's two top attractions - Saddlebrook golf and tennis resort and Land O'Lakes' nudist clubs - spent much of 2003 dreaming of how to draw even more tourist bucks.

In the case of Saddlebrook, resort owner Tom Dempsey floated plans for an upscale golf course on State Road 52, miles from Saddlebrook itself on the former Cannon Ranch.

Though the idea is pretty much pie in the sky at this point, Dempsey imagines the course drawing televised golf tournaments. It's apparently too expensive and disruptive to retrofit Saddlebrook's two existing courses for televised play.

Dempsey's other pet project, a $6-million open-air tennis stadium in Wesley Chapel, got a boost in 2003. Don Porter of the Wiregrass Ranch agreed to donate 20 to 25 acres for the stadium southeast of SR 54 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

The nudism business continued to bare its competitive claws, in addition to other body parts. An estimated 100,000 customers visited the five nudist resorts clustered in Land O'Lakes.

The newest of the bunch, Caliente, is finishing work on its two-story Mediterranean clubhouse, Roman-villa style swimming pools and 50-room motel. Advertising itself as nudism's biggest and best, Caliente is poised to take a chunk out of the area's dominant resort, Paradise Lakes.

Caliente's strategy has been to borrow what's best from Paradise, such as a Thursday ladies' night in the resort bars, but add a Caliente twist. Paradise is no slouch itself: Its owners have opened a sister nudist club in Georgia.

The Tampa Bay area horsey set - and oodles of the less well-heeled - continue to bolster the Little Everglades Steeplechase near Dade City.

The races, which involve horses clearing hurdles on a circular turf course for $115,000 in prize money, drew an estimated 15,000 and 20,000 in March.

In a case of one Pasco tourist destination aiding another, one of the sponsors at steeplechase was none other than Paradise Lakes. Gives new meaning to riding bareback.

[Last modified February 15, 2004, 01:15:45]


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