On April 18, Pasco County’s Board of County Commissioners voted to buy out the contract of RADDSports, LLC, to manage the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus.
I called the county’s tourism office that same day — and made three additional attempts before I went to press with this issue — in an effort to get official responses to a number of my questions about the takeover plan from tourism director Adam Thomas, who did not respond to my questions.
Instead, the only response I got, from Tambrey Laine, the manager of media relations for Pasco County Government, was the press release put out jointly by the county and RADDSports, and that, “The county is declining to comment further.”
Please note that almost everything presented below is a matter of public record. The only exception is what the owners of RADDSports told me Thomas said to them prior to the Sports Campus groundbreaking in 2017; however, Anthony Homer of RADDSports assures me that what he says Thomas said at that time is true. — GN
For those who don’t understand why Pasco County has agreed to buy out the contract to take over the management of the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus for what will end up being more than $6 million of taxpayer funds, you’re not alone.
Adam Thomas, the county’s director of tourism who renamed the tourism department “Experience Florida’s Sports Coast,” got the job basically the same day Pasco and the private firm RADDSports, LLC, broke ground on the Sports Campus together in 2017.
RADD’s Anthony Homer had told me back in 2020 that Thomas had told him and RADDSports president Richard Blalock prior to the groundbreaking ceremony that if it were up to him (meaning Thomas), there would be no private-public partnership between the two entities. And, it seems Thomas has been doing everything he could to end that agreement ever since.
For one thing, despite Thomas’ claims to the contrary last year, RADD has provided proof that it never did actually default on its agreement. And yet, Thomas still was able to convince the five county commissioners back in October 2022 to vote in favor of that default.
Thomas had the county hire the attorneys (with county money) who wrote up the default paperwork that the commissioners voted on in October — without the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) ever seeing any proof of the default and without even discussing it before they voted to approve it from the Board’s Consent Agenda. The commissioners at that time accepted Thomas at his word that RADD was focusing on local events, not on increasing sports tourism in the county, which was the primary portion of RADD’s mandate in that agreement.
Prior to the unanimous vote at that October BCC meeting, RADD even provided the commissioners with actual statistics from an independent study firm that proved that not only had no default taken place, but that RADD had actually outperformed all of the tourism benchmarks of its agreement.
These facts presented by RADD were confirmed by a separate $35,000 independent report — commissioned by Thomas — also using public funds.
In fact, RADD did such a great job of establishing the Sports Campus as a tourist destination for people outside of Pasco that the study showed that it was the #55 tourist draw in all of Florida last year, outperforming much more established attractions like the Miami Seaquarium (#56) & the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium (#57). The Sports Campus also won the Florida Sports Foundation’s Small Venue of the Year award for 2021 under RADD’s management.
Again, despite Thomas’ claims, it wasn’t only RADD’s local programs that were hugely successful — it hosted 112 events (there have been many weekends with more than one event) in 2021-22 and those events helped local hoteliers sell tens of thousands of room nights both years in Pasco — and bring more than 92,000 unique visitors to the county. All of this happened despite RADD first taking over the Sports Campus at the height of Covid.
In addition, Pasco received the agreed-to $150,000 payment from RADD for 2021 and would have received its agreed-to $150,000 payment for 2022 had the BCC not voted to default the company. Pasco also would have received 11% of RADD’s revenue this year, and already has received millions more in sales and bed tax funds from all of the visitors the Sports Campus has brought in from all over the country and even beyond.
Instead of continuing this mutually beneficial partnership, Thomas convinced the commissioners to spend the following:
• $250,000 in taxpayer money on legal fees to force RADD out;
• $3 million over the next five years (including $1 million this year and $500,000 each year for the next four) to buy out the agreement with RADD;
• $2.8 million to operate the Sports Campus — at a loss (for at least the first two years, according to the default notice approved by the county in October);
• $94,000 to purchase furnishings & other items from RADD; and
• $35,000 for the independent study previously mentioned.
So, is that $6,179,000 an amount of money a small, but growing, county would spend of its taxpayers’ funds to take over a supposedly defaulted contract?
“We thank the county for recognizing the value that RADDSports has brought to the Sports Campus,” says Homer of the buyout agreement.
I don’t know why Thomas has had an issue with RADD from Day One, but I felt compelled to at least provide the actual facts of this situation, as I have not seen most of the information presented here reported by any other local news media.
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