TOWN 'N COUNTRY — The Tampa Bay Rowdies' proposed minor league soccer stadium has won a key recommendation, but it comes with a big red flag about parking.
"It is not clear at this time how many parking spaces will be provided on-site," county land use hearing officer Steven Luce wrote in a new 14-page report.
That, along with the availability of parking at nearby businesses, poses a potential problem, Luce concluded.
In a report to the County Commission, which is scheduled to consider the project on Dec. 9, Luce recommends approval. But he calls for more stringent parking requirements than the team wants.
He even suggests the Rowdies "may need to consider" building a parking garage to meet county requirements.
"Which is absurd," said Vincent Marchetti, an attorney for the team. "That's not going to happen."
The Rowdies want to build the stadium on 15 acres south of Waters Avenue, next to the Veterans Expressway. Initially, it would seat 5,000. But a second phase could expand it to nearly 10,000 seats.
County rules require about one parking space for every three stadium seats. That means the team will need nearly 3,500 spaces on or near its property when it builds the second phase. The Rowdies want a waiver allowing the team to have one space for every seven seats.
"In our opinion the land development code requirement is not correct; it's antiquated," Marchetti said.
The team contends that no other stadium in Tampa Bay has to meet that standard. The team says its research would support a ratio of one space per 12 seats, though it can live with one per seven.
But Luce said the team has not provided enough information.
For example, the team estimates it can put about 800 parking spaces on its land and line up another 1,000 at businesses nearby. But the evidence suggests there might be "less than 700 to 800" spaces available on the property, Luce said.
He noted that conditions off the property are different, too.
Unlike the St. Pete Times Forum, the Rowdies' stadium wouldn't be in a downtown with lots of parking garages and parking lots nearby.
And, unlike Raymond James Stadium, it's not near a big institutional property owner like a mall or a big park.
So Luce recommends that the County Commission require:
• About one parking space, either on or off the property, for every three stadium seats.
• The team to provide letters of commitment from all nearby property owners providing parking for the stadium.
• All off-site parking to be within 2,000 feet of the property.
Opponents have concerns of their own — traffic safety and noise — and plan to be out in force on Dec. 9.
"In order for it to survive, they're going to have to have other events there besides soccer," Twelve Oaks Civic Association president Rosemarie Middleton said. "That's the concern that I have for my property values and my home."
Richard Danielson can be reached at Danielson@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5311.