Wednesday, November 22, 2017
News Roundup

Tampa officials, student thespian festival and bike race reach truce

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TAMPA — The beer tents will be fenced off from the students, more barriers are on order and extra police will be on duty.

The result is a truce — this year — between the 7,000-student Florida State Thespian Festival and the Gasparilla Criterium and Cycling Festival, both scheduled for March 29.

"We've got a plan that I think is going to work for this year," said Lindsay Painter, a Steinbrenner High School theater teacher and the director of the statewide thespian festival.

Last month, dozens of drama student parents from across Florida protested booking the festival, now in its 24th year, on the same day as the race, in which more than 500 professional and amateur cyclists speed around a 1-kilometer course at 35 mph or more.

The course, however, passes directly in front of the Tampa Theatre, one of three main venues for the thespian festival.

Organizers worry about students being blocked from scheduled performances for which they spent months rehearsing.

Parents take a dim view of the beer tents at the Criterium's cycling festival at Lykes Gaslight Square Park.

City officials considered moving the race course, but concluded that would create traffic problems on Ashley Drive if they went in one direction and transit problems on Marion Street if they went in the other.

So the city and race organizers kept the course as is, but will put a double row of barriers in front of the theater and have extra police ready to minimize disruption to the thespians.

"A clear, through path for the students will be maintained on the sidewalks," city spokeswoman Ali Glisson said in an email to the Times.

She also noted that "the Tampa Theater area has never been a particularly popular area with race watchers anyway."

Moreover, officials say, the beer tents at Gaslight Square Park will be inside a fence of their own, with organizers checking IDs and no beer leaving the park.

"Hopefully, we'll flag the scheduling for next year for both of these so that they're not conflicting," council member Mary Mulhern told city chief of staff Dennis Rogero on Thursday.

"We'll look at it," Rogero said.

The Tampa Theatre has concerns of its own, since the race has forced it to close down on Saturday, its biggest day of the week, in past years.

"We support the race, just not in our face," Tampa Theatre marketing director Jill Witecki said. The theater's management hopes the city will look at moving the race course or scheduling the race on a day other than Saturday.

"It's pretty much lost revenue for them that day," said council member Yvonne Yolie Capin, who sits on the Tampa Theatre's board. "How do we make sure that something that we're supporting, something that we own, can function on the same day?"

In other business, the council voted to:

• Give initial approval for the Cuban Club Foundation to close an alley between its courtyard and the El Pasaje parking lot. The foundation's Patrick Manteiga gave two reasons to vacate the alley. First, safety: Hillsborough Community College students use the unlit alley as a shortcut to campus. Second, the foundation and El Pasaje want to tear down the walls lining the alley to create an event space big enough for a concert with 3,000 to 4,000 people. A final vote is scheduled for March 20.

• Offer up to $50,000 in public incentives to a Tampa-based information technology company thinking about expanding here, or in Ohio, Massachusetts or London. The company, whose name is being kept secret under an exemption to Florida's public records law, plans to add 100 jobs by the end of 2016 and spend $643,750 on facilities by the end of next year. The jobs would pay an average salary of $49,643. The proposed incentives package also includes $50,000 from Hillsborough County and $400,000 from the state.

• Permit the Outpost Tap House and Tavern to add liquor to its menu. The neighboring University of Tampa opposed the request, saying it could contribute to underage drinking and excessive drinking, thereby aggravating on-campus vandalism, litter, accidents and sexual assault. The council vote was 6-0, with Chairman Charlie Miranda abstaining because his son Frank Miranda is the attorney for the Outpost.

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