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'Exploding Chicken' sculpture to get new home in Tampa

The sculpture will be moved to a spot on Channelside Drive.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times (2005)

The sculpture will be moved to a spot on Channelside Drive.

TAMPA — The iconic black and yellow sculpture at Kennedy Boulevard and Ashley Drive, known informally as the "Exploding Chicken," is about to fly its coop.

The sculpture is set to be moved from in front of Rivergate Tower to a roundabout north of the Florida Aquarium, creating a striking visual for people arriving in the Channel District from Ybor City or walking from the aquarium parking lot.

"I knew that space was there and it's highly visible and I suggested it because I thought it would be a great place for it," said Bob McDonaugh, the city's manager for economic development downtown and in the Channel District.

The search for a new home for the untitled sculpture, which has occupied the corner for about two decades, began five years ago.

That's when America's Capital Partners bought the building, art included, for $35.5 million.

Six months after the purchase, company officials offered to donate the sculpture by artist George Sugarman to the city, saying it was too big for the space.

City officials began a search for a new roost, considering the Riverwalk and Tampa International Airport.

McDonaugh suggested the chosen spot more than a year ago.

He estimates the cost to move the piece at $150,000, but much of the work is being donated.

"It's just about an all-volunteer effort," McDonaugh said.

Volunteers include steelworker union apprentices; Gulf Marine Repair, which will refurbish the sculpture; and Florida Structural Steel, which will move it.

The exact date of the relocation hinges on getting permission from the Florida Department of Transportation to close Kennedy Boulevard and nearby sidewalks to accommodate a crane.

Robert Willis, project coordinator for Florida Structural Steel, said the sculpture will be moved in pieces.

"It's too big to ship as is," he said.

Willis declined to comment on the sculpture's aesthetics, but did offer this: "I wish Mr. Sugarman would have named it. I don't like the name it's been given — 'The Exploding Chicken.' "

The moniker was popularized by Tampa Tribune columnist Steve Otto.

Henry Lewis, who has worked in the Channel District since 1968 and lived there for six years, welcomes the neighborhood's new arrival.

"It's a fabulous piece of art. It will add to the arts character of the Channel District, which is originally what we were," he said. "And we happen to have zero arts now. All the arts have been taken away."

Tom Wagner, a spokesman for the Florida Aquarium, said the sculpture adds a unique feature to the district.

"That space is pretty empty," he said. "It's nice to add a visual element as you're approaching Channelside from that direction."

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

'Exploding Chicken' sculpture to get new home in Tampa 02/11/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 11, 2010 11:17pm]
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