Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Council member proposes splash park near new St. Petersburg Pier

ST. PETERSBURG — As city officials invite ideas from residents about what they'd like to see at the new Pier, one council member is offering one.

A splash park near Spa Beach is just what's needed, council member Karl Nurse says. But how to pay for it, when the council has set a strict $50 million budget, a limit that does not include a water park in the current design?

Nurse has an answer for what he proposes might be a $300,000 enhancement. "It's very modest and we have a source of funding for that,'' he said.

His plan is to tap into the Weeki Wachee fund, which was created when the city sold a 440-acre recreation area along Weeki Wachee Springs in Hernando County and was earmarked for parks and recreation.

Nurse's City Council colleagues are cautious. A couple say it's too early to make pronouncements about amenities they'd like to see at the Pier when residents have not had a chance to offer ideas of their own. The first of four public input sessions to refine the Pier concept envisioned by Michael Maltzan Architecture of Los Angeles is set for Thursday evening at the Coliseum.

The suggestion of dipping into the Weeki Wachee fund seems to be less of an issue.

"The Weeki Wachee money is there and it's there for parks," council member Steve Kornell said. "If we use some of the money, I don't see it as an incompatible use."

Money to build the Pier is coming from tax increment financing, a combination of city and county property tax dollars. Back in 2005, the City Council and County Commission agreed that $50 million in TIF funding would be used for a new Pier. As they decided to proceed with the project this year, Mayor Bill Foster and council members said the budget for the project would be a firm $50 million.

Kornell bristled at a suggestion that officials might be reneging on their commitment. "I think it's two separate pots of money for two separate uses,'' he said. "I completely disagree that us spending a park fund for a new park makes us go over the budget for the Pier."

Council member Charlie Gerdes said Nurse's idea for a water park at the Pier approach is a good one.

"I think that doing it as a park or as an addition to the existing park at Spa Beach in order to use Weeki Wachee money is good thinking outside the box and it's a way to maximize the energy of the upland with the new Pier without using TIF money,'' Gerdes said.

And no, he said, it's not disingenuous to set a limit for the Pier and then talk about spending more.

"I absolutely demand that it stay within the $50 million. I'm not willing to spend more on the Pier or any of its complements than we said we would spend, but if there are other ways like Weeki Wachee money that can legally be used because it is part of the park system, that's good, because it's not Pier money and it's not TIF money."

Added council member Jeff Danner: "I'm not opposed to looking at other funding sources for Pier amenities as we move further down the road, whether Weeki Wachee or Penny for Pinellas or other grants."

There is $16.7 million in the Weeki Wachee fund, $14.5 million of it the principal, City Administrator Tish Elston said. She added that $2.4 million is available for projects and that 10 parks projects proposed by council members await funding.

Nurse wants his proposed water park to be modeled on the SplashPad at Dell Holmes Park, at 2741 22nd St. S. "For a few hundred thousand dollars, you can bring a park very near the end of the land there,'' he said.

The water play area at Dell Holmes, which opened in 2009, cost about $275,000, said Clarence Scott, the city's leisure and community services administrator. It has an in-ground tank that holds 3,000 gallons of recirculated, chlorinated water that bubbles from the ground, shoots from dolphins, frogs and flowers and pours from colorful arches. It can accommodate about 70 frolickers.

Despite the playground's popularity, Nurse's idea for duplicating it isn't getting immediate support from other council members.

"It seems a little bit premature," council member Leslie Curran said.

"I don't want to sit and dictate what's going out there. … For us to jump out and say that's what we're going to do is not being inclusive of the rest of the community. I think we just need to follow the process."

Council member Bill Dudley agrees. "My feeling is that we shouldn't do anything until we have the downtown waterfront park master plan formalized. We are working on that plan and that needs to be considered and how the Pier is going to tie into all that," he said.

Nurse said the water park idea was brought to him by residents. "What people talk to me about is there's really nothing for kids downtown. ... So for a very modest amount of money, we could have families bring their kids downtown and enjoy the waterfront.''

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at or (727) 892-2283.


Public meetings about the Pier

6 p.m. Thursday, the Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N

6 p.m. June 12, Enoch Davis Center, 1111 18th Ave. S

6 p.m. June 14, J.W. Cate Recreation Center, 5801 22nd Ave. N

6 p.m. June 19, Lake Vista Recreation Center, 1401 62nd Ave. S

Council member proposes splash park near new St. Petersburg Pier 06/05/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 5, 2012 5:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Two boys in critical condition after Largo crash


    LARGO — A 7-year-old boy was thrown from a car in a head-on crash on Starkey Road, and both he and a 6-year-old boy were in critical condition Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  2. Trump's new order bars almost all travel from seven countries


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a new order banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Sunday upon his return to the White House in Washington.
  3. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  4. In Mexico City, hopes of finding quake survivors dwindle


    MEXICO CITY — Five days after the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the hulking wreckage of what used to be a seven-story office building is one of the last hopes: one of just two sites left where searchers believe they may still find someone trapped alive in Mexico City.

    Rescue workers search for survivors inside a felled office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City on Saturday.
  5. GOP health bill in major peril as resistance hardens among key senators


    WASHINGTON — The floundering Republican attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act met hardening resistance from key GOP senators Sunday that left it on the verge of collapse even as advocates vowed to keep pushing for a vote this week.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate, said Sunday that it was “very difficult” to envision voting for this health-care bill.