Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Faux manatee will be a floating stadium protest

DIRK SHADD   |   Times


ST. PETERSBURG — Pete the Manatee was supposed to symbolize everything that is wrong with a hulking baseball stadium on a pristine waterfront.

Related News/Archive

That was before the group of environmentalists that created him decided to ditch him. Like everyone else around Tampa Bay, they simply couldn't agree on whether the Tampa Bay Rays' proposed stadium was a good or bad idea.

But surfers John and Julie Pappas refuse to give up on Pete.

The manatee, the couple say, must fulfill his destiny.

• • •

Christmas was weeks away.

Julie Pappas was sitting around with her surfer friends lamenting the proposed stadium.

The plan calls for dumping fill dirt over six-tenths of an acre of Tampa Bay to create about 26,000 square feet of new land, the rough equivalent of three house lots.

What if we did something? someone asked.

I can do something, Pappas thought.

"Our waterfront, the way it is now, is great," she said. "A big monster stadium that is going to cost me money is not a good idea."

What would be a really cute and recognizable mascot? she wondered.

A dolphin? No, dolphins have been done to death.

A fish? No, fish are not cute.

A stingray? Obviously not, because of the Rays.

A manatee? It's cute. It's big. It comes with its own slogan — "save the manatees."

"I just knew," said Pappas, "we had to build a manatee."

• • •

His skin is made of tape, his skeleton of PVC pipe and ceiling wire, his eyes of recycled boat upholstery.

Pappas and her husband, John, began building Pete in December with the help of Julie's artsy brother, Jon Shields.

They were going to float him out on biodegradable foam in Tampa Bay near the proposed stadium site at Al Lang Field.

"We wanted to do it guerrilla style," said Shields, 36. "We were going to drop it out in the middle of the night."

The Pappases, members of a local chapter of the Surfriders Foundation, a grass roots nonprofit environmental group, decided to run it by the other surfers. They loved it.

Word spread, and the Pappases received calls from environmental groups such as Tampa Bay Watch, the Sierra Club and Protect Our Wallets and Waterfront, a vocal opponent of the stadium. The activists even came up with a nickname: Pete, for St. Petersburg.

A protest was set for Feb. 20, the day before the first City Council hearing on the stadium. The surfers were going to paddle out into the bay and create a semicircle that would represent the dredged and filled land. Pete, in all his gray glory, would float in a kayak at the center of the spectacle. Thousands of people were expected.

Then two days before the scheduled protest, the Surfriders changed their minds. Some of the surfers had even started talking about how much they were looking forward to attending a game at the proposed outdoor stadium.

The protest was definitely off.

• • •

The Pappases still believe in Pete.

They briefly flirted with the idea of parading Pete out at a Rays game, but they doubted they could get him past security.

An art gallery asked to display him, but the Pappases declined, determined to bring Pete to water.

So they are back to Plan A: All of St. Petersburg will wake up one day soon and find Pete floating in Tampa Bay with a sign that reads, "Keep your balls out of our bay."

"He has to fulfill his vision," said Julie Pappas. "He can't sit in my back yard for the rest of my life."

Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or

Faux manatee will be a floating stadium protest 05/10/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 15, 2008 5:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Judge throws out $458,000 condo sale, says Clearwater attorney tricked bidders

    Real Estate

    CLEARWATER — Pinellas County Circuit Judge Jack St. Arnold on Monday threw out the $458,100 sale of a gulf-front condo because of what he called an "unscrupulous" and "conniving" scheme to trick bidders at a foreclosure auction.

    John Houde, left, whose Orlando copany was the high  bidder June 8 at the foreclosure auction of a Redington Beach condo, looks in the direction of Clearwater lawyer and real estate investor Roy C. Skelton, foreground,  during a hearing Monday before Pinellas County Circuit Judge Jack St. Arnold.  [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times ]
  2. Vision Zero plan to make Hillsborough roads safer to be unveiled


    TAMPA — Vision Zero, the coalition trying to make Hillsborough County safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, is set to unveil its action plan on Tuesday morning.

    Members of the Vision Zero workshop cross Hillsborough Avenue and Kelly Road during a on-street audit of Town 'N Country roads in January. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |   Times]
  3. Pasco EDC names business incubator head in Dade City, will open second site


    Pasco County economic development officials are busy reigniting their business start-up resources following the departure earlier this year of Krista Covey, who ran the Pasco Economic Development Council's SMARTStart business incubator in Dade City.

    Andrew Romaner was promoted this summer to serve as program director of the Dade City SMARTStart Entrepreneur Center, a start-up incubator service of the Pasco Economic Development Council. He succeeds Krista Covey, who relocated to Texas for another startup position. [Courtesy of Pasco EDC]
  4. Clearwater lawyer and real estate investor Roy C. Skelton, center, attends a hearing on Monday Circuit Court Judge Jack St. Arnold at the Pinellas County Courthouse in Clearwater. The hearing was requested by attorneys representing John Houde, left, who filed a motion to invalidate the sale of a $458,000 Redington Beach condo, a deal orchestrated by Skelton, who stands accused of deliberately misleading bidders in a the June 8 foreclosure auction. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
  5. Sarasota GOP names Dick Cheney 'Statesman of the Year'


    Former Vice President Dick Cheney will be honored as "Statesman of Year" by the Sarasota GOP, a title that twice went to Donald Trump.

    Dick and Liz Cheney