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Residents fear soccer stadium would bring noise, traffic

TOWN 'N COUNTRY — Less a kick in the grass, as the old team song used to say, and more a pain in the neck.

That's the reaction the Tampa Bay Rowdies' proposed minor league soccer stadium is getting from neighbors, especially those in Twelve Oaks.

With the first of two public hearings scheduled for Monday, the team met this week with more than 70 residents at the Morgan Woods Recreation Center.

Neighbors identified noise and traffic as two main concerns during a sometimes testy two-hour meeting Tuesday night.

The team has filed plans with Hillsborough County to build a 5,000-seat stadium on 15.3 acres at Waters Avenue and the Veterans Expressway.

The property is owned by Tampa restaurateur David Laxer, whose father, Bern Laxer, grew vegetables there for his famous South Tampa steakhouse.

As proposed, the stadium could be expanded to just under 10,000 seats. It also would have about 800 parking spaces, a restaurant or pub, stores and maybe a soccer museum.

During Tuesday night's meeting, the team's attorney tried to get the crowd to stick to issues directly concerning the team's rezoning application, the subject of next week's hearing.

But residents demanded to know more, especially about whether the stadium would host concerts.

The team said the stadium was going to be primarily for soccer, not music. But they wouldn't rule out holding concerts there.

"I can't exclude a use like that for this facility," said Vincent Marchetti, a lawyer for the team.

That drew plenty of pointed questions, if not outright opposition.

"We already get enough noise from the Green Iguana," said Twelve Oaks resident Ruth Hinckfoth, referring to the Anderson Road bar that has provoked complaints about excessive noise for more than two years. "I don't think anybody in here wants this to turn into the Ford Amphitheatre."

That's not the idea, the team said, though its Web site — www.tbrowdies.com — describes the stadium as a fun and intimate setting for a variety of sports, "as well as concerts."

"Their goal and their focus is soccer," Marchetti said.

There would be 15 regular season games a year between April and October. Most games would be played Friday or Saturday nights or Sundays in the afternoon or evenings.

Team president Andrew Nestor said he anticipated "no more than 10" concerts per year, which drew a mocking groan from the crowd.

Another concern is traffic.

"The community really wants to know what you're going to do about Barry Road," said Pamela Jo Hatley, an attorney for the neighborhood.

Barry connects Hanley and Benjamin roads, and residents worry about the stadium bringing even more cut-through traffic to Twelve Oaks. One alternative, suggested Tom Stahl, would be to configure the stadium's entrances on Benjamin so that all stadium traffic would have to come in from the north and leave the same way.

"Funnel it to Waters and the Veterans," he said.

"That's something we can consider," Marchetti said.

The original Tampa Bay Rowdies began in 1975 as part of the North American Soccer League and, after the NASL fell apart in the 1980s, continued playing in various leagues until 1993.

Team owners aim for the reconstituted Rowdies to begin play in April 2010, but they have not announced a schedule for building the stadium, which they say will be paid for with private money.

Richard Danielson can be reached at Danielson@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5311.

>>FAST FACTS

If you go

The Tampa Bay Rowdies' proposed stadium rezoning is scheduled for a public hearing before a county land use officer at 6 p.m. Monday in the County Commission boardroom on the second floor of County Center, 601 E Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. The County Commission is scheduled to consider the rezoning Dec. 9.

Residents fear soccer stadium would bring noise, traffic 10/23/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 2:43pm]
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