Pasco County has tried to recruit any number of big sporting events to the county by dangling economic incentive carrots in front of the promoters. First came the tennis palace that was going to be built next to Saddlebrook, then various baseball, softball, soccer, and other venues. The most recent effort has been to establish a large lacrosse facility in Wesley Chapel. In each case, the county would have to spend millions to create sports facilities from scratch. It seems that Pasco invariably gets left at the proverbial altar as the sports promoters accept sweeter deals elsewhere.
Perhaps we should be looking at addressing the demand for individual sports rather than team sports.
The largest sporting event in Pasco County for several years running (pun intended) has been the Rap River Run. This annual event routinely attracts over a thousand athletes.
The Longleaf Triathlon has now been around for a decade and routinely attracts hundreds of athletes each October.
Now in its fifth year, the Gearlink Cup Criterium races will be returning to downtown New Port Richey this coming Saturday.
It is easy to lose count on the number of other 5k runs, triathlons, and “mud” races that are held each year. If you add in the non-competitive events, such as long distance bike rides, etc, you have something going on in Pasco almost every weekend.
Just maybe, we need to rethink all of this. I see an opportunity for New Port Richey. While Pasco County concentrates on chasing various team sport dreams in east Pasco, we should work to make New Port Richey the “go-to” location for individual sports.
Not sure this makes sense? Come downtown Saturday and watch the Gearlink Cup races. Events like this are a perfect opportunity to showcase our community. The bicycles you will see are, in general, more expensive than my first car. People who will spend $5,000, $10,000, or more on a bicycle are EXACTLY the sort of people we ought to be encouraging to consider New Port Richey home.
I believe that creating a great quality of life in our community is more important than simply putting “heads in beds.” The Rap River Run and other individual events tend to attract folks primarily from the surrounding area. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
We can do a better job of promoting these events, especially to potential spectators. The Gearlink Cup is on the City calendar, but not the Chamber calendar or the Main Street Calendar. If you find out about events like this one, it is generally accidental.
The calendar issue isn’t unique to sporting events. We have an awesome boat parade coming up on December 6th, followed up with the annual Christmas street parade on December 13th. The boat parade shows up on the Main Street calendar, but not the Chamber calendar. The street parade shows up on the Chamber calendar, but not the Main Street calendar. Amazingly, neither of these events show up on the city calendar, even though both will attract thousands of visitors in little more than two months from now. What we need is a single calendar that can be shared on all three websites.
We also need to make sure that people who come to these events are aware of our downtown merchants and restaurants. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of coordination between event organizers and downtown businesses. Again, this is not unique to just the sporting events. The upcoming Bike Fest is a rare example of event organizers going out of their way to involve the downtown business community.
Events like the Gearlink Cup would also seem to be a perfect opportunity for the Main Street Economic Restructuring committee or the city to be handing out flyers promoting the advantages of locating businesses here. I wonder if anyone thought to get flyers to the Gearlink folks to put in the race packets.
I can see individual sporting events helping establish an identity for us as a place to come to play outdoors. When you add in our amazing parks and the Cotee River, you have a great draw for the city. Who wouldn’t want to call home a place that offers great outdoor recreational opportunities such as running, biking, kayaking, boating, and free concerts and movies in the park?
If our ultimate goal is to draw more people to consider New Port Richey as a home for themselves and their businesses, then I submit that it will be easier initially to get someone who lives in the Tampa Bay area to open up shop here and commute to work than it would be to convince someone from out of state to uproot their business and family to move here.
Once we build the job base, those commuters should be easy to convince to move closer to their jobs right here in New Port Richey. Then they can walk or bike to work if they like.
I’d like to know what you think.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor
City of New Port Richey