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Tampa Bay Rowdies check out site for stadium in Dover

DOVER — A 440-acre site off Interstate 4 isn't exactly what the Tampa Bay Rowdies had in mind for a new soccer stadium.

The people who live in the quiet, rural area are quick to agree.

A day after the minor league soccer club withdrew its request to build a 5,000-seat stadium in Town 'N Country, team president and co-owner Andrew Nestor toured the I-4 location, which is owned by the city of Tampa.

Nestor said the team wasn't going to rule out the Dover site but would continue the search for the perfect home.

"It's important for us to be near our fan base in a central location," Nestor said. "There are definitely a few options out there. Some are in Hillsborough County and some are not, but at this point we have to take a deeper look at the options we have."

Prior to Tuesday's meeting, the team had never heard of the Dover spot, located east of McIntosh Road and just north of the interstate.

The land was originally acquired by the Tampa water department for use as a well field. Part of it is used by Tampa police to train police dogs and horses.

Commissioner Jim Norman said Wednesday he threw out the idea of a public-private partnership during the hearing in a "creative" attempt to get exhibition league soccer balls rolling in the county.

At that session, commissioners ultimately found problems with traffic, parking and noise for the team's top choice on Waters Avenue. Nearby residents also contended that the stadium would ruin their neighborhood.

The Rowdies pursued the Waters site because of its proximity to major roadways and fans across the region.

Team officials were never shown the I-4 location because the county didn't own it, Norman said. He discovered the site while working on Championship Park.

In recent weeks, county parks director Mark Thornton had contact with the city to determine if the land could be put on the "shown list," Norman said.

The I-4 property is one of several the county identified as a possible locations for a combined Rowdies-youth soccer complex, parks department spokesman John Brill said. The Rowdies have considered other sites, but found they didn't work for a variety of reasons.

"We're basically looking for large parcels kind of anywhere that would suffice to do this," Brill said.

"The positive thing about (the I-4) site is that it would be a government-to-government deal," Norman said. "We wouldn't have to deal with anyone else and could make it work."

He added that a three-way partnership between Tampa, the county and the Rowdies to build a stadium and sports complex could bring about more money to reinvest in the site.

Because the site lacks water and sewer service, other locations might work better, County Commissioner Al Higginbotham said. The 440 acres are located outside the urban service area, a zone where growth is supported with roads, utilities and schools.

"We want to do what we can to keep them in Hillsborough County," Higginbotham said. "That would include looking at places in Plant City or along the I-4 corridor."

Seffner community activist Terry Flott, who lives a mile away from the site, said such a proposal wouldn't go over well with residents.

"It's just another way to speed up the development along I-4," Flott said. "And how are they going to get to it? There's no good way from I-4."

Bonnie Balliet, who lives near the proposed site, agrees.

"We live here for a reason, and that's because we like living in the country," Balliet said. "Can you imagine the noise? It's so quiet out here."

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at cbroadwater@sptimes.com, or 661-2454.

>>Fast facts

Other potential stadium sites

• 320 acres on Lutz-Lake Fern Road in Keystone owned by developer Steve Dibbs. Dibbs said Wednesday he met two or three months ago with county parks director Mark Thornton. "He never followed up, so I figured they weren't interested," Dibbs said.

• Land at north end of the Tampa Executive Airport, east of Tampa.

• Property at or near Cordoba Ranch off Livingston Avenue in Lutz, near State Road 60 in Dover and near Madison Avenue between U.S. 41 and Interstate 75 in Riverview.

Tampa Bay Rowdies check out site for stadium in Dover 01/14/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 11:39pm]

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