Saddlebrook Resort, the first centerpiece of Wesley Chapel and a forerunner of all the development happening today in the area, has been sold.

But, it’s not going anywhere, says longtime owner Thomas L. Dempsey, who told the Neighborhood News that the sale just marks a new chapter in the resort’s long and fabled history.

“I’m very pleased; it has a long way to go,” said Dempsey.  “A great group of people bought it and intend to expand it in the future and we’ll be working with them in the future.”

The iconic conference center, vacation resort and athletic getaway was purchased by Mast Capital and Amzak Capital Management for $15,009,000 according to Pasco County Property Appraiser website.

Dempsey was the Chairman and CEO of Penton Publishing, a subsidiary of the Fortune 500 Pittway Corporation, when he helped develop Saddlebrook Resort after Pittway purchased the 480-acre property in 1979. Saddlebrook Resort opened in 1981, and Dempsey purchased the resort from Pittway in 1988 and has been Chairman and CEO — as well as a full-time resident — ever since.

Saddlebrook Resort, tucked away south of S.R. 54 and east of Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd., is a 500-unit condo and hotel property, featuring restaurants, gift shops and other amenities, including more than 100,000 square feet of conference space. 

It is often the choice of visitors with plans to stay in the area for a long time. For example, in 2018, the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team stayed at Saddlebrook while training at nearby AdventHealth Center Ice for the Winter Olympics, before they won gold at PyeongChang, South Korea.

The Olympic hockey team is just one of many high-profile athletes that have been associated with Saddlebrook. 

Both of the 18-hole golf courses were designed by PGA legend Arnold Palmer, but the most famous athletes the resort has hosted and trained have been professional tennis players.

Thomas L. Dempsey, Saddlebrook Resorts owner, Chairman and CEO since 1988, poses with the U.S. Fed Cup tennis team in 2017. Saddlebrook hosted the semifinals, which the U.S. won, defeating the Czech Republic. (Photo: John C. Cotey)

Saddlebrook has been well-known for being a training ground for players like Jim Courier, Jennifer Capriati (also a long-time resident), John Isner, Martina Hingis and Andy Roddick, as well as many others. It hosts many tennis tournaments, most recently (and notably) the Women’s Fed Cup finals between the U.S. and the Czech Republic in 2017.

The property also is home to nationally-renowned tennis and golf training academies, which are part of Saddlebrook Prep, a fully accredited college-preparatory school (grades 3 through 12) with roughly 100 students from more than 25 different countries attending the school while getting world-class training in their respective sports.

The gated resort, however, had begun to show its age in recent years. Mast Capital CEO Camilo Miguel told the Tampa Bay Business Journal (TBBJ) that the property will receive a major renovation, and may even add residential and commercial space in the future.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity in elevating the property and bringing back some of its luster,” Miguel said. “There hasn’t been much investment in the property in decades, so that’s the low-hanging fruit.”

Miguel also told the TBBJ he has already hired HEI Hotels & Resorts to manage the resort, and instead of bringing in a different flagship hotel to the property, feels that the Saddlebrook name still carries enough weight to make it a desired destination.

Mast Capital also announced earlier this week that Troon, the world’s largest golf management company providing services at 630-plus locations around the globe, was hired to manage the resort. In addition to golf, Troon specializes in homeowner association management, private residence clubs, estate management and associated hospitality venues. 

Dempsey, 97, declined to talk about the sale or why he sold the resort after all these years, but did say he was proud of what his family accomplished with one of the first big-ticket locations in the area north of Busch Gardens.

“From the time we arrived some 40 years ago, there was very little here, practically nothing,” Dempsey said. “It grew to be a prominent part of Florida. and one of the fastest-growing areas. And, we were very much a part of all that, and will continue (to be) for the future.”

Dempsey thinks the outlook for Saddlebrook is promising. He said the new owners have plans to expand and improve it, making them an attractive buyer.

As for what he will remember the most from his stewardship of Saddlebrook Resort, Dempsey says there are too many things to mention.

“It’s been a long series of very good things,” he said. “We had a lot of help along the way with the people here, and also the county and all of that. They were there to work with us and will continue to do so.”

For Mast Capital, a Miami real estate investor/developer, it is the second major purchase it has made in Wesley Chapel in the last six months.

In November 2021, in a joint venture with private equity firm Rockpoint Group, it acquired roughly 16 acres of land located at 5101 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. for $4.5 million with plans to build a 248-unit luxury apartment community later this year.

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