Sports complex panel faces best-case, worst-case scenarios

Published May 16, 2007

TAMPA - A citizens panel vetting a $40-million amateur sports complex proposed for eastern Hillsborough County heard worst-case and best-case scenarios Tuesday on how much business it might do.

In the best-case scenario, the new complex proves popular indeed, according to the Leib Group consulting firm. It plays host to as many as 108 tournaments in its first year, netting $1.3-million in profits that could pay for youth sports programs.

Under this rosy projection, the number of tournaments climbs to 151 by year 10 - or about one every other weekend - netting $2.1-million in profits.

The downside prognostication has the so-called Championship Park, to be used mainly for high-level amateur sports competition, drawing just 63 events in its first year and requiring a $745, 000 subsidy.

The subsidy would reach more than $1-million by year five then taper back down.

Leib Group senior consultant David Stone said the worst-case, best-case projections were based on ranges experienced at similar parks, limitations on parking at Championship Park because of its rural location and other factors.

Leib president Robert Leib said there is a clear need for competitive sports fields in Hillsborough, with most operating above capacities that guarantee reasonable playing times and maintenance. But to return a profit, Championship Park would need to attract large regional, state, national and international competitions, which attract advertising and whose participants pay to play.

County Commission Chairman Jim Norman, a youth-sports advocate, proposed the park months ago, saying he believes it could turn a profit. Norman, however, envisioned it having a centerpiece stadium that could hold major sporting events.

The Leib Group has said the stadium should come later, and only if hotels, restaurants and other entertainment options that tournament organizers expect, spring up in the area.

County Management and Budget director Eric Johnson reminded the group Tuesday that its task is to provide its best analysis of whether a new park would generate enough money to at least pay the cost to run it.

He said that is particularly true now with commissioners looking for ways to trim spending as state legislators look for ways to force property tax reductions on local government.