Pasco County and RADDSports failed to settle their differences over the management of the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus at a November mediation, and have decided to pause efforts to reconcile those differences for 60 days until a second mediation can be held in February 2023.
A lawsuit, filed by RADDSports on Nov. 15, now hangs over the negotiations, as well.
The two sides issued a joint statement on Dec. 12, which was signed by RADDSports’ chief operating officer Anthony Homer and Pasco’s chief assistant county attorney David Goldstein, acknowledging the lawsuit and the lack of a settlement at the initial mediation session on Nov. 28, but stated that the two sides were still trying to resolve their issues.
“The parties have now agreed to place their disputes on hold for 60 days while they continue to work towards a definitive resolution,” the joint statement says. “There has been no judicial determination of whether RADDSports is or is not in default of the (contract).”
Homer says RADDSports wants that judicial determination, which is why the company filed the suit.
“What we are suing for is a declarative action,” Homer says. “We simply want a judge to look at the county’s allegations, compare it to the contract and to essentially declare whether or not we are in default (as the county claims). That’s it.”
Goldstein declined comment.
After receiving a letter of default from Pasco County on Nov. 4, and receiving no response to its defense of the claims in the letter, RADDSports filed the suit, which claims that the county has long sought to undermine the management company’s efforts.
“Now, under the pretense of a default, the county is trying to terminate a 20-year contract with false claims in order to take over operations at the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus,” Homer says.
“We’re not asking for damages, we’re not asking to renegotiate the contract,” he adds. “We’re perfectly happy to live within the terms of the agreement that we committed to at the beginning of this for the next 18 years. All we’re asking is for a judge to determine whether or not we are in default, and if we are not, we go back to business.”
While Homer hasn’t ruled out another suit for damages if the county proceeds with terminating the management company’s contract, RADDSports did agree to suspend its lawsuit during the current 60-day break in talks.
Both sides are still communicating, however, as well as collecting information and fulfilling public records requests that they expect will bolster their arguments on Feb. 7 when they meet again.
The two sides are at odds over how the sports facility, which opened in July of 2020 but officially opened in January 2021, is being run and the results of those early efforts.
On Oct. 25, the county’s Board of County Commissioners (BOC) approved a Notice of Default, originally written by Florida Sports Coast director Adam Thomas, which also included approval of roughly $3 million to take over management of the sports campus from RADDSports.
The county claims that RADD has focused too heavily on local events and did not promote tourism and overnight hotel stays – including failing to properly market the facility and not working with the Residence Inn by Marriott hotel, which is located on the same campus.
The default letter received by RADD, which Homer says was different than what the BOC initially approved, was delivered to RADDSports on Nov. 4. Homer delivered a point-by-point rebuttal to the default claims at the following BOC meeting on Nov. 8.
Homer says that RADDSports asked the county to withdraw its claim of default, but was met with silence from the five county commissioners.
The suit was filed because “Pasco County basically left us in purgatory,” Homer said, after putting the accusation of default in the public domain.
RADDSports claims it has not only promoted tourism and met all of the other requirements laid out in the contract, but actually has exceeded the number of room nights in the company’s agreement with the county and has spent $1.5 million of its own money to do so.
It says the county also paid consultants roughly $35,000 to produce data on RADDSports’ tourism efforts, and that data only confirmed that the management company has met expectations.
In addition, Florida Sports Coast is accused of attempting to turn other local businesses against RADDSports, with false accusations that those businesses refused to sign off on.
Homer says he is “optimistic” that the next mediation session will produce an agreement that both sides find satisfactory.
“We want the same thing the county wants,” he says. “The more people we bring into the building is better for us, and also better for them. It is unclear to us right now exactly what the county’s expectations are, since they are claiming we are in default, yet their own data they paid an outside company for confirmed that we are doing exactly what we said we would. In fact, their vendor said we were doing better than even we had estimated. So, there’s an alignment of interests to be found. Hopefully we can all agree on some objective metrics and move forward.“