Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

City Council give green light to agreement on aquarium lease

A conceptual rendering shows a two-story coral reef tank in the new proposed Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

A conceptual rendering shows a two-story coral reef tank in the new proposed Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

CLEARWATER — The City Council unanimously approved a tentative agreement Wednesday to lease prime city-owned land on the waterfront for a new $160.5 million aquarium that would house Winter the dolphin.

The vote came after about an hour of public comments on the project. Some raised concerns about the aquarium eventually requiring city money, causing traffic congestion and wasting prime real estate. They were countered by supporters who said the city had a historic opportunity to revitalize downtown.

Voters will decide whether the project advances in a Nov. 5 referendum.

Mayor George Cretekos balked earlier this week at an offer that he characterized as a bad financial deal for the city. The later, more generous offer approved at Wednesday's City Council meeting would require the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to pay interest on $7.5 million in payments generated by a surcharge of 50 cents per ticket.

The aquarium estimates that its attendance would pay off that amount in about 15 years. After that, the aquarium would pay $250,000 a year to the city for use of the land for the duration of the 60-year lease on Osceola Avenue.

"I think we've reached a good compromise," Cretekos said.

Former Mayor Frank Hibbard, who has led the effort for a new aquarium, said negotiations had been "interesting" but that "transformative projects are never easy."

The 2011 hit movie Dolphin Tale brought an attendance boom to the current aquarium on Island Estates. That led to talks between the aquarium and city this spring for a new one.

City Hall, built in 1966, now stands on that property. CMA would pay to demolish the structure, but the city is responsible for costs associated with removing any asbestos found inside. City engineers haven't yet determined how much, if any, asbestos is present.

The property is valued at $16.4 million by the county appraiser. But a city-commissioned appraisal that took into account that the aquarium was only leasing the land and could only build an aquarium on it valued the land at $6.6 million.

City Attorney Pam Akin said CMA won't use all the land included in that appraisal, lowering its value.

The city would also be responsible for any costs if it chose to extend Pierce Street to Drew Street, a key component to allay concerns about congestion for waterfront condo owners, and for building a traffic roundabout at the western end of Cleveland Street.

The revised agreement, or memorandum of understanding, also states that no city general revenues will be spent on the design, construction, operation or maintenance of the new aquarium. The city will have no liability or obligation for any CMA loans and obligations, the agreement states.

If CMA can't raise the money to build the 200,000-square-foot facility, the agreement will dissolve Aug. 1, 2016.

Charlie Frago can be reached at or (727) 445-4159. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago.

City Council give green light to agreement on aquarium lease 08/14/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 11:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Once targeted by the Bucs, Dalvin Cook thrills for the Vikings


    How good would the Bucs be with running back Dalvin Cook?

    Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) slips a tackle by Steelers strong safety Sean Davis (28) to score a touchdown Sunday in Pittsburgh. [AP photo]
  2. Review: More than 20 years later, 'RENT' still matters


    TAMPA — Two decades after RENT shook up Broadway with a starkly joyous musical that demanded to be recognized, a nostalgic tour is taking audiences back.

    The 20th anniversary tour of RENT, shown in 2016, comes to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts Sept. 19-24, 2017. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
  3. Dennis Miller, headed to Tampa with Bill O'Reilly: 'We don't know each other that well'


    Dennis Miller often gets cast as the odd comic out these days.

    Dennis Miller will perform with Bill O'Reilly at the Spin Stops Here Tour at Amalie Arena in Tampa. [Spuffy Productions]
  4. Tampa Bay among top 25 metro areas with fastest growing economies

    Economic Development

    Tampa Bay had the 24th fastest growing economy among 382 metro areas in the country for 2016. According to an analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Tampa Bay's gross domestic product, or GDP, increased 4.2 percent from 2015 to 2016 to hit $126.2 billion.

    Tampa Bay had the 24th fastest growing economy in the country for 2016. Rentals were one of the areas that contributed to Tampa Bay's GDP growth. Pictured is attorney David Eaton in front of his rental home. 
  5. Top 5 at noon: Interactive story: Why Hurricane Irma turned when it did; former champion boxer Jake LaMotta dies; and more


    Top 5 at noon:

    Here are the latest headlines and updates on

    In this geocolor image GOES-16 satellite image taken Sept. 8, sunlight, from the right, illuminates Hurricane Irma as the storm approaches Cuba and Florida. [NOAA via AP]