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Vipers football may get new home
By CHUIN-WEI YAP
Published May 2, 2007
WESLEY CHAPEL - In the wake of a clash with the Wesley Chapel Athletic Association over the use of the new Wesley Chapel District Park, county officials are now trying to find a new home for the Vipers youth football team.
WCAA officials say that if the Vipers do not agree with a proposed deal to play at a local school, the association has made arrangements to accommodate the Vipers at the new park, Mike McCarn, the association's tackle football director, said in an e-mail to the Pasco Times.
The spat broke out three weeks ago when county officials told the WCAA to share the park's fields with the Vipers.
The association had been designated the informal "host" of the park, and was prepared to spend $150, 000 on improvements there.
Displeased with the county's instruction and concerned about the Vipers' impact on the park's fields, WCAA president Tom FitzSimons said Monday that the association's participation in the park was "on hold" until the matter was sorted out.
McCarn said Tuesday that what FitzSimons meant was that the association's participation would be put on "temporary hold" until the association could clear up with the county what it meant to be a "host" of the park. McCarn said that "hold" has been lifted.
McCarn said his football program is working with Pasco County on a potential compromise.
The Vipers' director, Mark Gardiner, said the county's parks and recreation director, Rick Buckman, spoke to him Tuesday morning about a possible deal to play at a local school field. He said he has not heard from the association.
Pasco schools assistant superintendent Ray Gadd confirmed the district was working on the compromise, but said no decision had been made yet.
McCarn said the county was trying to get usage fees waived for the Vipers if they use a school field.
Gardiner said he is willing to consider using a school field, but wants one in Wesley Chapel. He worries that fees charged by the school system would escalate every year.
He said he had already tried to work out an arrangement with other schools, but ran into difficulties that led him to ask the county to let the Vipers use the new park, which in turn led to the spat with the association.
"I don't have a problem practicing off the park, but I want a promise that if I lose that field, I can go back to the park to practice, " Gardiner said.
Buckman said he was discussing usage fees with the school district. He said he had just sent the Wesley Chapel association a draft agreement on the terms of its "host" status, and that a specific time limit was included.
On Tuesday, McCarn denied that there was any animosity with the Vipers but said in his e-mail that "the Vipers have made some unreasonable requests and statements that have made it difficult for the county and the association to agree to."
Among other comments, McCarn said the Vipers were not willing to pay for upkeep of the park's fields. Gardiner said this was because he thought at the time that the WCAA's offer to split the upkeep cost was lopsided.
One thing all sides can agree on: Wesley Chapel needs more parks.
Gardiner said he still has not heard about any meetings scheduled to sort out the problem.
County officials say it may take a week or more.
"I'm still looking at all options and then we'll pull all the parties together, " Buckman said.
The park had a tentative Monday opening date, but it will likely be pushed back, mainly because of construction issues.