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Sports

Lacrosse tournament welcome in early 2008

By CHUIN-WEI YAP
Published April 19, 2007


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DADE CITY - Two kinds of sports went hat in hand before the county's top tourism officials Wednesday, and one walked out with a shot at bringing a national tournament to Pasco County.

Supporters of the proposed lacrosse deal secured a $15,000 grant to host the tournament.

But the Pasco Tourism Development Council didn't jump just yet at a $10-million, three-rink ice hockey stadium proposed for Land O'Lakes.

The lacrosse event, the Dick's Sporting Goods Tournament of Champions, draws 40 teams from 25 high school lacrosse tournaments from across the United States and Canada, said Mark Schneider, a volunteer with the Wesley Chapel Athletic Association who made the pitch to the council.

The tournament, scheduled for the first week of 2008, is expected to produce 480 room-nights at local hotels, Schneider said. The stays are a critical indicator for council grants, which are in turn fed by bed taxes.

The Wesley Chapel Athletic Association has the right of first refusal to host the tournament. KSE, the tournament's Denver-based organizers, asked for $25,000 for a three-year host, but were willing to discount the sum, Schneider said.

"Wesley Chapel is starting a competitive lacrosse program," he said. "We were looking for a tournament for them to play in without having to travel."

Lacrosse, long a staple sport in the Northeast, is a rising star among participatory athletics.

The number of Florida high schools that offer the sport nearly doubled from 2001 to 2004, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

The Florida Sports Foundation may provide a second key.

County officials are planning to pay $1,000 to join the foundation, which would open a funding spigot to defray Pasco's $15,000 lacrosse bid.

The Wesley Chapel Athletic Association is fielding a team drawn from Wiregrass, Land O'Lakes and Wesley Chapel high schools. The team is guaranteed a place if Pasco hosts the tournament, Schneider said. If it does not, West Palm Beach might snag the deal instead.

Hockey and ice skating didn't fare as well as lacrosse Wednesday.

The council held back on a proposed ice rink at U.S. 41 and Tower Road.

A group of hockey enthusiasts and businessmen, led by Dave Beaudin, wants to build three rinks over 115,000 square feet with as many as 4,000 seats and two stories. They think it might cost $10-million.

Beaudin is counting on demand from Pasco and Hernando high school students, who today have to commute to rinks in Oldsmar or Brandon to skate.

He's also proposing to manage the rink. It would be owned by a nonprofit he runs, called Team F.O.C.U.S., which helps those with brain trauma injuries caused by hockey.

But the council left Beaudin's pitch without making a decision. More discussions will follow, Beaudin said.

"We would pursue it even without TDC funding," he said. "Of course, any Pasco participation, we'd love to see."

Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached at (813) 909-4613 or cyap@sptimes.com.

[Last modified April 19, 2007, 07:56:25]


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