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Clearwater hopes new welcome monument makes a statement

CLEARWATER

Placed at the western end of the Courtney Campbell Causeway, it's nearly impossible to miss.

Close to 50 feet tall with "Welcome to Clearwater" in large letters at its base, a new monument towers over trees and electrical poles near the road.

It has taken nearly a month to install and cost the city close to $600,000. On top is an orb meant to represent the sun, lit from spotlights below after the sun sets. On Monday, a construction crew was finishing the installation and programming the statue's lighting system.

Clearwater city officials say the monument, which will be dedicated Thursday, makes it clear to drivers they've entered Pinellas County's second-largest city.

"When you get over the causeway and you're entering Clearwater, you need to know you're there in a very classy way," City Manager Bill Horne said. "It clearly will get people's attention."

St. Petersburg has a 75-foot-tall tower at the western end of the Howard Frankland Bridge. Before the Clearwater monument was constructed, there wasn't much to mark the entrance to the city. A few small signs dot patches of grass along State Road 60. One reads "Florida's Best Beach Town," and another boasts that Clearwater is home of the Bombers, a fast-pitch softball team famous in the 1950s, '60s and '70s.

The old signs are easy to overlook. But the new monument serves two purposes, according to Mayor George Cretekos: welcoming people to Clearwater in a distinct way and acknowledging the city's 100-year celebration. The monument has the city's centennial logo and the year the city was founded — 1915 — on two sides.

"You only get to celebrate a centennial once in a lifetime, if at all," Cretekos said.

Horne agreed. He said the monument has a lot of meaning for the city in its centennial year.

"We wanted to do something that really reflected the significance of the occasion," he said.

Horne said the causeway was chosen for the monument because it is one of the most-trafficked entrances to Clearwater.

The project was approved by the City Council in March. It was slated for dedication on May 27, the date of the city's centennial celebration, but hit delays with approval from the Florida Department of Transportation.

"It's been a long process that had some hiccups, so I'm excited to finally get there," said city construction manager Tara Kivett. "I think something like a monument sign had been needed for many years."

Kivett, who worked on the project from start to finish, said she is pleased with the final result.

"We didn't want just a little sign. We had that before," she said. "We wanted something that would truly have impact."

Cretekos said he hopes the statue will be celebrated for decades.

"The goal was to make sure people realized once they cross the bridge they're in Clearwater," he said. "This is an eye-catcher."

Contact Ayana Stewart at astewart@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4153. Follow @AyanaStewart.

.If you go

The ceremony

The monument dedication ceremony will take place at 9 a.m. Thursday on State Road 60 west of Damascus Road.

Clearwater hopes new welcome monument makes a statement 07/09/15 [Last modified: Thursday, July 9, 2015 3:26pm]
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