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Aging party mansion built by Gary Sheffield heads to auction

ST. PETERSBURG — When Gary Sheffield, once one of baseball's highest-paid players, built his multimillion-dollar party mansion in Pinellas Point in 1997, he aimed for that special tier of excess few but pro athletes can afford.

The master suite's California king bed was laid on black marble near what look like the highest-end speakerphones, stereos and VCRs the late '90s had to offer. A few steps past stained-glass windows, the master bathroom was adorned with a gold-accented hot tub.

Dr. Joseph "Doc" Sena, who said he frequently partied at the mansion before buying it in December, laughed Thursday afternoon as he shuffled past the shower, which looked big enough for half a dozen bathers.

"As I said," he laughed, "it was a party home."

But it has been 15 years since the Tampa-born slugger unveiled his bachelor pad and, save for a star turn as a gangland fortress in the neon satire Spring Breakers, the aging mansion Sena called the "best-known party house in Pinellas County" has long been forgotten.

So over the past six months, Sena, a 55-year-old retired orthopedic surgeon in Belleair Beach, has poured in hundreds of thousands of dollars to remodel the home for new buyers. Listed for sale now at $3.3 million, the mansion will go up for auction next month.

Filling 3 acres among the birdcage houses and pink streets of St. Petersburg's placid southern tip, the palm-lined party mansion has always stood as an outsider. The gated enclave once boasted a red driveway, a basketball court and a fountain pond in the front yard.

But Sena said he is now hoping to promote the home as a low-key waterfront estate for a wealthy-family clientele. "More Miami Beach, less Archie's home," he said, referring to the drug lord, played by rapper Gucci Mane, whose thugs shot it out with bikini babes in Spring Breakers' climax.

But scrubbing over the mansion's dated playboy mystique might be tough. The 10,000-square-foot home has seven bedrooms with balconies, motorized curtains on every window, stereo controllers in the halls and 14 separate air conditioners.

"When (Sheffield) built this home he didn't spare 5 cents," said Michael Peters, the president of American Heritage Auctioneers, which is coordinating the sale. "Money was no object."

A home theater with leather couches and a Budweiser dispenser stands near a gym, sauna, massage room and an arcade of slot machines. In the six-car garage, a teal golf cart modeled after a '57 Chevy Bel Air, which Sena said hauled in all the beer for the home's three bars, is parked near a walk-in freezer.

Out back, a lagoon pool, bathhouse and 250-foot dock offer a panorama of Tampa Bay and the Sunshine Skyway bridge. Upstairs, an apartment-sized walk-in closet, where Sheffield stored his collections of hats, Louis Vuitton luggage and more than 100 suits, hid a small vault with a bank-style safe.

Sheffield, who at the time also owned a $3.2 million California mansion overlooking the Santa Monica mountains, built the home only a few blocks from the mansion of his uncle, retired pitcher Dwight Gooden.

"God says you're supposed to live well. He didn't say you were supposed to be poor," Sheffield told Ebony magazine in 1999. "He wants you to have nice things."

But in 2000, after clearing dozens of trees and outraging his neighbors, Sheffield told reporters he wanted a "simpler life," and listed the custom mansion for sale. He had just married DeLeon Sheffield, a gospel singer, and proclaimed the home "too much for two people."

In 2001, Sheffield contracted with an Alabama luxury auction house and invited businessmen and entertainers to compete for what he had once called his "dream home" at a high-stakes absolute auction.

But when nine bidders carrying $50,000 cashiers' checks filed into the living room, past a saxophonist and silver-platter servers, they were informed that Sheffield, huddled in the theater with advisers, had canceled the auction.

In 2002, Sheffield sold the home for $2.8 million to infomercial mogul Kevin Harrington, a judge on ABC's Shark Tank. But soon enough, Harrington also wanted to downsize, and by 2008 he was seeking to sell the gaudy estate.

In December, unable to find a buyer, Harrington sold it for about half what he paid to Sena, who listed it for sale a month later at $3.3 million. Sena will host an open house for bidders and looky-loos on June 16 before the auction June 22.

Anyone can bid, but the winner must pay a 10 percent deposit on the spot and the rest within 45 days. Neither Sena nor Peters will say how much they expect to gain, but some question what kind of buyer the aging star mansion might attract.

"When (Sheffield) built it, everything he did dated the home. It just screamed '90s," said Craig Kincheloe, the Keller Williams agent who worked with Harrington to sell the home. "It's going to take a very unique buyer to buy that property."

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 893-8252 or dharwell@tampabay.com.

Aging party mansion built by Gary Sheffield heads to auction 05/23/13 [Last modified: Thursday, May 23, 2013 9:47pm]
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