By Matt Wiley

After receiving design and operations proposals from nine different companies for the planned “Fields at Wiregrass” sports complex in the Wiregrass Ranch Development of Regional Impact (DRI), Pasco officials have made their recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) for which company should operate the facility.

Of the two operations proposals, the county’s purchasing department has recommended a proposal from Blue Marble Strategic, LLC. The second proposal came from a group that included Wiregrass Sports, LLC, better known as the Porter family, who also donated the 200 acres of land for the project inside the 5,000-acre DRI. Originally, the Porters were going to both build and manage the facility, but negotiations between the family and the county fell apart late last year.

“It is important to note that Wiregrass Sports, LLC, recently terminated negotiations with the county for nearly the same scope under a previous solicitation,” wrote Pasco director of purchasing Scott Stromer in a memo to the BOCC.

Stromer explained that the terms that were attached to the latest “Fields” operations solicitation were very similar to the terms upon which the Porters previously could not come to an agreement with the county.

“The Purchasing Department is very concerned about the precedent that may be established by allowing an offeror to terminate negotiations, which resulted from a formal competitive process, only to have that same firm submit a similar proposal in response to a new solicitation for similar services,” the memo states.

Stromer recommends in the memo that Pasco County administrator John Gallagher should meet with Tampa-based Blue Marble Strategic, LLC, and that the reviewing of design proposals be suspended until the operations proposal from Blue Marble can be fully evaluated.

The window for submitting proposals for both the design and operations of the sports complex closed on February 15. In addition to the two operations proposals, Pasco County received seven proposals for the design of the project, which will be built with $14 million in county tourism funds

The seven companies that submitted design proposals include:

*Clearwater-based Deuel & Associates, which reconstructed Carpenter Field in Clearwater, the Philadelphia Phillies’ Spring Training home;

*St. Petersburg-based George F. Young, Inc., which, among numerous other services, specializes in designing parks and athletic facilities

*Tampa-based Long & Associates, which designed Strawberry Crest High School in nearby Plant City

*Valrico-based Cribo Philbert Weaver Group (no other information available at our press time)

*Jacksonville-based Ervin Lovett Miller, which built the Boston Red Sox Spring Training facility in Ft. Myers, as well as the Jacksonville Zoo botanical gardens

*Tampa-based King Engineering Associates, Inc., which helped design the original master plan for the Wiregrass Ranch DRI

*Orlando Based Bellwood-Herbert & Company, Inc., which designed the Jackie Robinson Ballpark in Daytona Beach.

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