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State cross country meet leaving Little Everglades
Posted Feb 9, 2012 by Bill Ward
Updated Feb 9, 2012 at 06:57 PM
After staging the state cross country championships at Little Everglades Ranch in Dade City since 2005, the Florida High School Athletics Association announced today the venue’s foundation has been granted a release from its final year as the meet’s contracted host, FHSAA director of athletics Shanell Young confirmed Thursday.
The popular Pre-State meet will also no longer be staged at Little Everglades Ranch.
In recent years, there has been growing gulf between the owners of Little Everglades Ranch and those in the state’s cross country community, particularly the coaches. The main issue has been entre fees and the price to park and attend events there. For the Pre-State meet, the ranch charged entry fees close to $150 per school. Spectators for this meet and the state finals were charged $9 each and $10 for parking, including buses and vans that transported the teams.
Organizers of the event claim the pricing was needed to help offset the cost of keeping up the facility, which is designed primarily for horse steeplechase races. The parking policy was done, they say, to avoid confusion as to who and who was not allowed to park free in the rush of traffic trying to enter the parking area at peak times. And when passes were issued to teams in the past, organizers say some teams abused the passes or allowed them to end up in the wrong team vehicle.
Plant coach Roy Harrison said he has mixed feelings about the meet leaving Little Everglades.
“It’s nice to change it around, travel and get away from Tampa a little bit,” Harrison said. “But I think we should have a permanent site for the state meet. We have no state records because we’re always moving the state meet.
“I liked the Little Everglades course a lot meet because as a coach, I could see my runners a lot. They let you on the infield and I could see them all over the course. A lot of meets, they won’t let you do that.”
Panthers boys coach Mike Boza said he understands the financial reasons for the move.
“I’m going to miss the course but with it being a private location, it was necessary for them to require a certain amount of revenue to cover their expenses,” Boza said. “Hopefully, we can find a public venue and a sports commission elsewhere that will allow us to have a great state meet.”
The FHSAA will post proposals specifications for the meet on its web site starting April 1. Request for Proposals (RFP) packages will then be sent to interested bidders. Once the bids have been submitted, FHSAA officials will make site visits, rank the bidders and make a decision on the top venue before starting negotiations.
“The FHSAA has been contacted verbally by a number of venues interested in hosting the Cross Country Finals thus far and we eagerly await the responses from facilities that want to partner with us,” Sobers said.
The venue prior to Little Everglades was Tampa’s Ed Radice Sports Complex in northwest Tampa. The meet has also been as far away as north Jacksonville.