HUDSON, Fla. — Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano was SunWest Park’s biggest cheerleader.
But now he says he’s disheartened over its condition.
“This past year I haven’t gone to the park just because it makes me sick to my stomach,” he said.
Mariano says when Pasco County handed operation of SunWest to a private company led by CEO Patrick Panakos, the park and its white sandy beaches were pristine.
“He’s let the sand blow away, he’s had grass growing in there; never seeing weeding done.”
Most visitors seem to be enjoying the beach and all there is to do here.
But county leaders have concerns over erosion, rusting bathroom fixtures, and a lack of marketing to bring more events like the volleyball tournament hosted here in 2015.
“It’s always a bit frustrating to hear negativity,” said Panakos.
Panakos specializes in building wakeboarding facilities, and most agree the one here is top notch.
His company was going to handle just the park amenities.
But Pasco leaders said the county couldn’t afford to open the park unless someone else managed it.
Under the agreement, the county gets 3% of revenues, while Panakos’ company keeps SunWest in first class condition.
“We feel we’ve been holding those expectations high,” he said.
“He didn’t do his paperwork for a year. He didn’t pay us for a year. He hasn’t posted a bond he was supposed to post. A lot of those have been remedied at this point now, but clearly that facility is not first class condition,” said Mariano.
So now, Mariano is leading efforts to put the county back in control of SunWest.
And Panakos seems ready to let them have it.
“We are moving in the right direction and I think this park is just going to be better,” he said.
“I want to get it where the county can go out there and every resident be proud of it. I want people to come out there and say this is Pasco County, we’ve got a great place to come,” said Mariano.
There are hopes to add even more to the park.including a board walk with shops, restaurants and even a hotel.