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Treasure Island sees sand sculptures drawing Republican National Convention visitors

TREASURE ISLAND — City officials are torn between unknown economic benefits and the equally unknown costs of a massive sand castle event proposed to coincide with the Republican National Convention in August.

"We need to make this work," said Commissioner Carol Coward this month. "It will be a boon for our restaurants, hotels and shops."

But police Chief Tim Casey is not so sure.

He said he would need at least 15 additional officers to ensure public safety — and that those would be difficult to find since most surrounding communities are contributing to the 2,500 extra officers Tampa is hiring to help with convention security.

City officials are also concerned about related costs for trash pickup and parking on the beach.

Apparently many questions raised by the commission, Casey, and Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Hayduke have yet to be answered by event organizers.

The Treasure Island Chamber of Commerce wants to build sculptures using 3,000 tons of sand near Gulf Front Park.

The event would be Aug. 24 to Sept. 2, but the sculptures would remain through Oct. 1.

The chamber would need a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection to scrape 2,000 tons of sand from the beach for the sculptures. An additional 1,000 tons would be brought in.

"Two thousand tons cannot come from our beach. It will never get approval from the state," Hayduke said.

She is also concerned that the event is planned during turtle nesting season.

The chamber's proposal pledges to return the beach to its "natural state" form after the event.

About 400 hotel rooms in Treasure Island and another 1,300 rooms in St. Pete Beach have been booked for the convention, according to Casey.

Treasure Island sees sand sculptures drawing Republican National Convention visitors 01/14/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 5:42pm]
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