PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) -- Tourism bed taxes help pay for a lot of fun sporting events in Pasco County
Last year, Pasco County government leaders helped subsidize a national bowling tournament, a skating championship, the Pasco Paddlepalooza and, are you ready for this, the Caliente Bare Dare 5K run.
That's right, if you rented a hotel or motel room in Pasco County last year, you helped contribute $4,815.42 to promote a clothing-optional foot race at one of Pasco County's dozen nudist communities, the Caliente Club and Resorts. The Bare Dare 5k run is getting about $5,200 from the bed tax for sponsorship at this year's Caliente event in May.
It's not like Pasco County tourism promoters had to be pestered into participating. They've been giving tax dollars to the Bare Dare Race for years.
"They actually approached me, actually in 2012, and it seemed like a perfect match," said Bare Dare race organizer Pete Williams. Williams insists the race is a hot ticket for Pasco tourism.
"They're getting at least 300 nights here at Caliente alone and it sells out months in advance," Williams said.
"The clothing-optional industry has a significant economic impact in Pasco County," said Pasco County Spokesman Doug Tobin.
The county's Strategic Policy Administrator Richard Gehring agrees.
"We're creating a diverse visitation opportunity that's mainly driven by wide open space and getting out in the sun," Gehring said. Where does nudism fit in? "It's part of that story," Gehring said.
Tobin said Caliente's Bare Dare sponsorship application predicts the event will attract more than 400 runners and generates about 300 tourism room nights just at the Caliente Resort, not including spillover to other nudist resorts and more mainstream lodgings where clothing is not optional.
That works out to just under $25,000 in hotel charges alone, not to mention food and other entertainment spending by the naturist running crowd.
Williams said Pasco has earned the title of "nudist capitol of North America" decades ago, because of its warm climate, welcoming atmosphere and many resorts. Visit Pasco agrees and is trying to grow that kind of tourism with your tax dollars. The tourism agency's tax-funded brochure invites tourists to visit because "it's only natural" and calls Pasco "the nudist capitol of the United States."
Have a problem with that? It did stir up some spirited conversation at a recent Pasco Board of County Commissioners meeting where Commissioner Jack Mariano expressed "some discomfort" with the idea of marketing a nudist race in various nudist magazines and websites.
Mariano's not the only one in Pasco who lacks the enthusiasm of Williams, Gehering and the rest of the Pasco Board of County Commissioners, who approved the latest Bare Dare spending March 7th.
Regina Lisinsinski says at the age of 90, she's's just old-fashioned about how the county disburses tax dollars--even ones generated by tourists.
"I think they could spend it in a better way than that," Lisinski said.
On the other hand, Pasco newcomer Mayra Lucero is unconcerned. "If it helps the economy and the county, its cool," Lucero said.
"It has a positive impact on our tourism fabric," said Gehring.
Maybe so, but for the most part, the only fabric you'll see at the Bare Dare Race on Sunday, May 7th, are the towels they had out to runners at the end of the race, each one branded with the Visit Pasco.net website.WHAT OTHERS ARE CLICKING ON:
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