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Tampa Bay bursting with color

Florida is awash in color year-round. No months of gray gloom and nature in hibernation. We've got blue skies, bright sunsets and flowering flora to the point of being monotonous. And that's just the stuff courtesy of Mother Nature. Look around and you'll see bursts of color across the Tampa Bay area, all cementing the notion that we live in a colorful place. Here are a few vivid examples. — Susan Thurston [email protected]

Cheetah Hunt

While neighbors at the University of South Florida must have been thrilled to see the school's green and gold colors on Busch Gardens' newest roller coaster, the similar palette is just a coincidence. Designers and engineers chose the color scheme to reflect the grasslands and trees in the cheetahs' Myombe Reserve. Because the coaster is visible from so many areas of the park, they wanted some parts to stand out and others to blend in with the terrain. The green tracks and bright-gold support beams reinforce the coaster's theme of combining nature and speed in a 3.5-minute thrill ride.

Don CeSar

Long called the Pink Lady and Pink Palace, the Don CeSar Beach Resort and Spa is arguably the area's most colorful landmark. The sprawling pink hotel can be seen for miles, casting a stately but sweet glow to St. Pete Beach. June H. Young, the local authority on the Don, says the building has been pink from the day it opened in 1928 because of the pink lime plaster used in the stucco. Young, who wrote the Don CeSar Story in 1974, says the developer, Thomas Rowe, modeled the building partly after the Royal Hawaiian hotel in Waikiki, another pink beauty. The Don CeSar wasn't quite so pink in its early years, until it got its first paint job in the '40s. It got a fresh coat in 2005 as part of a massive renovation. The exterior alone required 35,000 gallons.

Fort De Soto Beach

Dr. Beach, in naming Fort De Soto Park the country's No. 1 beach in 2005, compared the sand to Ivory soap. Yes, it's that white. Pinellas County beaches have long been praised for their sugar sand that attracts visitors worldwide. Dr. Beach, whose real name is Stephen Leatherman, rates beaches around the country annually based on sand softness, color and other factors. This year's top finisher was Sarasota's Siesta Key. "They claim to have the finest, whitest sand in the world,'' he said, "and I can't argue with that." Caladesi Island won the top honor in 2008.

Mona Lisard

It screamed green when it first went up in 2004. Since then, the lizard has lost some of its luster, but it still stands out on Tampa's skyline. The Outdoor Arts Foundation commissioned Clearwater artist Silas Beach, of Frenchy's decorating fame, to create the smiling reptile, known as the Mona Lisard. The 40- by 80-foot banner hangs from the Franklin Exchange Building, the last of several banners designed years ago to beautify downtown buildings. Like the real Mona, the lizard's eye follows the viewer. Jay Goulde, the foundation's executive director, said he hopes to replace the banner soon with another eye-catching design. The banner's manufacturer has agreed to replace it for free.

Recyclosaurus Rex

The orange dinosaur outside the Museum of Science and Industry is brighter than ever thanks to a recent facelift. Terry Klaaren, the artist who created Recyclosaurus Rex in 1993, refurbished MOSI's mascot in February to offset signs of age. The 20- by 40-foot dinosaur is made from construction fencing and stands on busy Fowler Avenue as a reminder for motorists to recycle. Its belly is filled with discarded aluminum cans and plastic bottles. The repairs strengthened its body and replaced the bulbs in its car headlight eyes.

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

For a bridge named after sunshine, gray just wouldn't do. Instead, builders went with yellow, the color of sunbeams, even if it meant a lot of work later. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge got a new paint job in 2008, a time-consuming, potentially dangerous project that involved painting circular support cables from hundreds of feet in the air. With cars speeding below. The job was the first repainting of the Skyway since it opened in 1987 and involved four coats of paint, including 1,000 gallons of primer and 700 gallons of bright yellow.

Tampa Police Department

It's not unusual for police officers to be referred to as men and women in blue. In Tampa, they actually work in blue. A blue building, that is. Tampa Police Department has its headquarters in a blue former bank at 411 N Franklin St., near City Hall. The department took over the former Sun Trust building in 1997. Sometime before that it housed Marine Bank, which may explain the blue facade. Dubbed One Police Center, the 10-story building replaced a dilapidated two-story building just north of downtown plagued with mildew, water leaks, rodents and insects. Downtown guides have no trouble pointing out the building to visitors. Just look for the big, blue box on the edge of Lykes Gaslight Park.

Tampa Bay bursting with color 06/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 2:13pm]
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