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Old February 28th, 2010, 04:25 AM   #1
FloridaFuture
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TAMPA | Florida State Fairgrounds Redevelopment Discussion

The rendering was in today's Trib which I no longer have, try to see if you can find it...

Rendering details fairgrounds vision
By MICHAEL SASSO
[email protected]
Published: February 27, 2010

TAMPA - The developer proposing a massive entertainment complex at the Florida State Fairgrounds envisions a project worth as much as $1 billion, with professional baseball and soccer stadiums and up to 2,600 hotel rooms, state and Florida State Fair Authority documents show.

The Tribune obtained a copy of a rendering of the fairgrounds project, which would be developed by Republic Land Development of Fairfax, Va. The rendering was done in January by WilsonMiller Inc., a large engineering and design firm based in Naples.

Republic Land has lined up some political heavyweights in the Tampa Bay region to help with its proposal, including former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and a real estate company tied to former Pinellas County Commission Chairman Ronnie Duncan. It expects to present its plan to the fair authority, which operates the fairgrounds at U.S. 301 and Interstate 4, in April.

Greco cautioned that the entire plan is very conceptual and may drastically change. He also stressed that, although the developers have contemplated a major-league baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays, the stadium proposal is not driving the project.

The baseball stadium is "not motivating any of this," Greco said.

Instead, the developer wants to capitalize on retail and entertainment opportunities at the fairgrounds. The success of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino across the highway is a factor in the developer's interest, Greco said.

Among Republic Land's plans at the fairgrounds, according to the rendering and an economic impact study provided to the state, are:

Two stadiums. One 37,000-seat stadium could hold a professional baseball team and cost from $382.5 million to $517.5 million. The economic study assumes the stadium would be built to house the Rays. The documents do not suggest who would pay for the stadium.

The second stadium is labeled soccer/multi-event and would have 45,000 seats. It would hold either a Major League Soccer franchise or international soccer games, as well as other events.

Hotel resort. Republic Land proposes a 2,000-room hotel resort fronting I-4, plus smaller hotels adding 600 more rooms. Hotel development costs might run up to $225.4 million, the plan estimates.

Unnamed entertainment venue. The rendering shows an entertainment venue on the west side of the fairgrounds. Greco said it hasn't been determined what might go there, but it potentially could house a Cirque du Soleil-style theater that an entrepreneur is proposing for the fairgrounds.

Recently, Marco Veilleux, a French Canadian with ties to Cirque du Soleil, met with the fair authority to propose a theater that would feature dreamlike sets and life-size puppets.

The Outback Golf Experience. A very conceptual project, this might be a marriage of a restaurant and golf venue, Greco said. The rendering shows a lake into which people might hit golf balls. Greco said he thinks the name Outback was placed on there for no significant reason.

A spokeswoman for OSI Restaurant Partners of Tampa, which owns the Outback Steakhouse chain, had not heard of any plans at the fairgrounds.

This week, fair authority Chairman Sandy MacKinnon said the proposed development would still leave room to hold the annual fair, although it would require some new parking garages. To comply with bidding rules, the authority may have to allow other developers to submit similar proposals for such a project, he said.

Reporter Michael Sasso can be reached at (813) 259-7865.

http://www2.tbo.com/content/2010/feb...rounds-vision/
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Old February 28th, 2010, 04:27 AM   #2
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Powerful group behind fairgrounds plan sees beyond Rays stadium
By Bill Varian, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Friday, February 26, 2010

TAMPA — The Florida State Fairgrounds may not be the best location for a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium, according to the business group that evaluated the team's future in the region.

But it does have a couple of things going for it: a prospective developer with a history of big-money deals and backers with political pull.

An attorney for a group hoping to bring a hotel and entertainment complex to the fairgrounds identified his client Tuesday as Republic Land Development of Fairfax, Va. The group is part of a family of companies that has developed and invested in real estate transactions nationally through the years valued at more than $4 billion, its Web site says.

David Mechanik, a land-use attorney working with Republic, said the company has been working for months on a conceptual development plan for up to 200 acres of the 350-acre fair property. He said it could include hotels and other retail development, along with a possible sports stadium.

He said that Republic has been working on the project since before the ABC Coalition released findings last fall that include the fairgrounds as one of five possible locations for a new Rays stadium. The timing is coincidental, he said.

An initial concept called for possible inclusion of a soccer stadium, similar to the amateur athletic complex proposed and dropped in recent years by Hills*borough County Commissioner Jim Norman. Mechanik said it is coincidental timing that the ABC Coalition came out with its report listing the fairgrounds as a Rays stadium option.

"Somebody could claim that that is a place-keeper for a baseball stadium," Mechanik said. "The size and shape are totally different. We certainly haven't proposed a baseball stadium."

But he said the soccer complex footprint could accommodate a baseball stadium instead.

Mechanik is a regular financial contributor to political campaigns. Republic also has enlisted real estate consultant and former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco, who has said that while it is not the plan, the site might make sense for baseball. They are working with WilsonMiller, the Naples-based design and engineering firm with a presence in Tampa, and Land Sharks, a commercial land brokerage.

Land Sharks recently joined the Duncan Cos., whose president is Ronnie Duncan, a former Pinellas County commissioner who left office in 2008. Duncan served on the subcommittee that evaluated and rejected the possibility of renovating the Rays' current stadium to make it more economically viable for the team.

He said that the Land Sharks employees are working in a consulting fashion, not as brokers, and that he has little involvement in the project. However, he said that, based on his understanding and the ABC Coalition's findings, the chances of putting a new Rays stadium at the fairground are "slim to none."

Mechanik said any proposal to develop part of the fairgrounds would keep the annual fair there. "Everything we would propose would involve keeping them and enhancing, to the extent that that is something appropriate, what is already there," he said.

The ABC Coalition listed three other stadium locations as the best options for a new Rays home due to demographic trends, potential fan attraction and corporate support. They include downtown Tampa, the area near Raymond James Stadium in Tampa and central Pinellas. The fairgrounds and downtown St. Petersburg, where Tropicana Field is located, were considered less favorably based on those same factors.

In recent weeks, reports have surfaced that groups have been working on potential stadium concept plans both at the fairgrounds and in downtown Tampa. Claire Clements, a Tampa developer behind the downtown project, has not disclosed what if any backers she has, but confirmed she is working on putting together an option should the Rays seek to leave St. Petersburg.

Florida State Fair Authority executive director Charles Pesano confirmed that he has had a couple of discussions with representatives of Republic. Largely, he said he has provided information about the Fair Authority's master plan.

He said the proposal is expected to get presented to the Florida State Fair Authority's governing board in April.

"My purpose has really been to provide history and background about our long-range plan, then I guess let them use their creative juices," Pesano said. "What they're proposing has a lot of elements to it that might fit with that. They also take some things to a different level."

Times staff writer David DeCamp contributed to this report. Bill Varian can be reached at (813) 226-3387 or [email protected].

[Last modified: Feb 26, 2010 07:38 AM]

http://www.tampabay.com/news/humanin...tadium/1075924
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Old February 28th, 2010, 11:50 PM   #3
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Even without the Rays stadium, sounds like a amazing project. Build it!
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Old March 1st, 2010, 10:58 PM   #4
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I would love to see the rendering, does anyone have it?
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Old March 1st, 2010, 11:34 PM   #5
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I looked on both Republic Land Development's and WilsonMiller Inc's sites and couldn't find anything. I expect we'll we see something pop up in the next couple weeks before the April meeting. Wonder if that meeting will be public or are they normally just the Fairground Authority?
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Old April 8th, 2010, 03:13 AM   #6
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Massive redevelopment would remake state fairgrounds
By Marlene Sokol, Times Staff Writer
Posted: Apr 07, 2010 07:08 PM

TAMPA — Is there room, in the Gateway to Tampa Bay, for the horse trailers to turn around?

The question, both logistical and philosophical, is now before the Florida State Fair Authority, which heard a pitch Wednesday for a radical redevelopment of the fairgrounds east of Tampa.

Former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco led a parade of blue-chip consultants who laid out plans for hotels and restaurants, shopping and a sports complex on about half the fairgrounds' 346 acres at U.S. 301 and Interstate 4.

Consultants say the land, mostly grassy lots and gravel paths, is under-utilized while the authority lacks the money for improvements.

"This is a wonderful piece of land," said Greco, part of a group led by Republic Land Development of Fairfax, Va. "You have got a gold mine here if it's done correctly."

Absent was any mention of a baseball stadium, which had been raised as the Tampa Bay Rays ponder their future.

Republic's design includes a soccer complex, and there was talk of golf, tennis and lacrosse as well. However, the development group said their design is just a starting point, and fair officials could ask for changes.

The presentation followed a glum discussion of the fairground's financial picture. Attendance at the February fair was down by 110,000 compared to last year, and total income was down by $1.2 million.

Fair officials generally blamed this year's cold and rainy weather. But, at committee meetings throughout the day, they also acknowledged it is hard to draw visitors from outside Hillsborough County.

The plan calls for Republic to lease land from the Fair Authority. Lease payments would be based on the businesses' revenues.

The existing midway, equestrian facilities, Cracker Country and exposition hall would remain, and the Fair Authority could use lease income to improve them. The Ford Amphitheatre would also remain.

Most of the new construction — hotels of various sizes, a golf school, a soccer tournament field and parking garages — would be on the outer edges. Some of the development would complement the nearby Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, and Republic's consultants said they are already having conversations with the tribe about a collaboration.

In addition to Greco, the group includes the WilsonMiller land planning firm; the Plasencia hotel investment group and Walker Brands, a marketing and branding specialist whose clients have included Disney.

Some of the ideas are pegged to future events, such as a transportation system that includes connections to regional light rail.

But even without rail, the network of highways that lead to the site make it a logical entrance point to the Tampa Bay area. Mark Cooney, president of The Land Sharks real estate consulting firm, suggested fountains, or "extreme landscaping," along the roadside.

The redevelopment would create more than 13,500 construction-related jobs and create or support 6,000 permanent jobs, consultants said.

But fair board members were not completely sold.

"I'm concerned as to where all the parking will be," said Charles Bronson, Florida's agriculture commissioner. "The horse trailers that are brought in during the fair take up an awful lot of space."

Others wondered if redevelopment was appropriate.

"Our charter says we're here for agriculture," said member William Bowman. "It doesn't say anything about a shopping center."

Nearby homeowners urged the board to consider traffic, drainage and neighborhood input. A spokesman for the NAACP asked that any redevelopment use minority contractors.

No vote was taken, and the matter will be referred to executive director Charles Pesano, who was not at the meeting. The board meets next on June 10, although a long-range planning committee might consider the presentation earlier.

And before any deal can be struck, the authority will need to open the process to other bids.

http://www.tampabay.com/news/busines...rounds/1085820
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Old April 8th, 2010, 03:23 AM   #7
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I'm still looking everywhere for some renders. I saw some on Bay News 9 earlier in the afternoon, but can't find any online.
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Old April 8th, 2010, 08:00 AM   #8
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Found a link with a map of the whole project. Kinda hard to see, but you'll be able to see where most of the proposals will go. What is interesting in #9 which is labeled "Skytower". I'm guessing that is like a observation tower which is cool. But maybe too far from Tampa?

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36221952/
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Old April 8th, 2010, 05:37 PM   #9
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Interesting idea. I am not sure what an "Outback Experience" is....also the Skytower is an interesting idea but there really is not much to see out there, even with a development like this...although you might get a good view of DT on a clear day. Also, the three "transit stops" seem like a good idea, but I am clueless what they would link to. Perhaps LR, but I am not familiar with any plans to extend any lines that far out any time soon, and HSR could use one station there, but three would surely be overkill.

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Old April 8th, 2010, 07:27 PM   #10
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I wonder what the chances are of this actually being built.
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Old April 8th, 2010, 07:45 PM   #11
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Too bad it's so far out and adds to sprawl.
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Old April 9th, 2010, 12:13 AM   #12
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The three stations will be stations for a monorail that they also plan on building. One station will be near the resort, another near the soccer stadium, and not sure where the other one goes to.

Be interesting if Hard Rock puts up any objections to the development since it does have a 2,000 room resort planned that could offer much more than the Hard Rock Hotel offers.
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Old April 9th, 2010, 12:58 AM   #13
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Anyone wanna tell me what they have planned at the I-4/301 Intersection in the pic on the link? HSR Station?

http://www.baynews9.com/content/36/2010/4/7/604634.html
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Old April 9th, 2010, 03:10 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TampaMike View Post
Found a link with a map of the whole project. Kinda hard to see, but you'll be able to see where most of the proposals will go. What is interesting in #9 which is labeled "Skytower". I'm guessing that is like a observation tower which is cool. But maybe too far from Tampa?

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36221952/
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Old April 9th, 2010, 04:45 AM   #15
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Build, Build, Build!!.. that area is WAY underdeveloped as it is, especially when you take into account that you have the CASiNO right there next-door. Might as well make that its own entertainment district and help draw in more Local Floridians to Tampa period, and then draw more tourists in as well.. I would like to see some changes to the whole site but its a good start..
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Old April 9th, 2010, 02:43 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by TampaMike View Post
The three stations will be stations for a monorail that they also plan on building. One station will be near the resort, another near the soccer stadium, and not sure where the other one goes to.
OK, that makes sense I suppose. It looks like the stations are by the soccer stadium, "Parking and retail (5 and 12)" North/East of the soccer stadium, the Amphitheater, and the parking area beside the "outback experience" and Entertainment Venue" (10 and 16).

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Old April 9th, 2010, 04:56 PM   #17
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I don't necessarily think the area is too far out. It's not that far from Ybor and Downtown and still have a resemblence of a grid but this project is lacking in density. There's an "RV Site" for crying ou loud. I don't mind some open spaces but this development looks pretty sparse. I'd like to see some multifamily residential development. Also, I'm not sure what "Skytower" is but if it's an observation deck then it's a silyl location for one. It would simply to be to add to the attraction of the casino (especially if their expansion is built) since there appears to be a pedestrain bridge connecting the two projects.

At least there appears to be no surface parking.
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Old April 9th, 2010, 09:25 PM   #18
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Well, the RV parking area is necessary; this is still supposed to be able to host the state fair after all. It's not really a traditional urban development; it's an entertainment complex, mainly, with (IMO) a few too many uses crammed in. It'll be interesting to see what the state fair board says. (As long as they get some cash I'm sure they'll be okay with it.)
If the Rays are to move from St.Pete (and stay in the Bay Area) I'd sure love to see the stadium much closer to downtown, but that is probably a pipe dream.
And did anyone else guess the "sky tower" is really just a glorified staircase connecting to a skybridge over I-4 to the Seminole casino parking garage across the highway?
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Old April 9th, 2010, 09:49 PM   #19
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Quote:
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And did anyone else guess the "sky tower" is really just a glorified staircase connecting to a skybridge over I-4 to the Seminole casino parking garage across the highway?
Now that makes much more sense, especially since it is right by the ped-bridge.

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Old April 9th, 2010, 11:58 PM   #20
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My guess is the 'skytower' will be a 'signature' decorative feature, visually identifying the complex to I-4 drivers. Probably something with a marquee on it. It would be logical to incorporate a similarly styled sky bridge across I-4 to the Hard Rock, making it functional and even more prominent.

Also, the idea of proposing a circulator that doesn't cross I-4 and directly access the casino property is absurd. One could make a case that the monorail could be run off site to other parking lots, and solve game day and state fair parking issues.
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