Monday, December 18, 2017
News Roundup

Tropical Storm Debby costs Clearwater big bucks at Phillies complex

CLEARWATER

Four months after it drenched the Tampa Bay area, Tropical Storm Debby is still soaking the city of Clearwater, right in its wallet. The city must spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair flood damage and prevent future flooding at the Philadelphia Phillies' spring training complex off U.S. 19.

City leaders recently agreed to pay $393,000 for extensive repairs at Bright House Field, where there was so much flooding on June 28 that the baseball diamond looked like a swimming pool.

Clearwater also agreed to pay $235,000 to raise the foundation of a $2.9 million training building under construction next door at the Carpenter Complex, where the Phillies train.

The reason: If the large new building had been constructed as originally planned, another storm like Debby would have flooded it.

"We would have had water intrusion into the building. We'd be responsible for replacing the contents of our tenant, the Phillies," Clearwater Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Dunbar told the City Council.

Is this a good deal?

Conservative activist Joe Paige questions the growing cost of the Phillies' new training building, calling it a misuse of taxpayer money.

"When are we going to stop subsidizing these multimillion-dollar sports teams?" he said. "Instead of reducing the millage rate or giving it back to the taxpayers, now we're giving to it a professional sports team that pays their players in the millions and millions of dollars."

Despite the expense, Clearwater officials remain convinced that this is a sound investment. They point to the tens of millions of dollars that Phillies fans spend every year at local restaurants and hotels.

The team pays $200,000 a year to lease the city-owned Carpenter Complex. The Phillies will fund their share of the new building's cost by giving the city 60 cents of each spring training ticket through 2023 — an estimated $900,000 over the remaining 12 years of their contract with Clearwater.

Mayor George Cretekos and other city officials say that, in the unlikely event that the Phillies left Clearwater, the city would simply keep the infrastructure at the Bright House Field and Carpenter Complex properties and would use it to attract another baseball team.

"The building, the stadium, the minor-league clubhouse, all the fields, are city facilities and city assets," Dunbar told the council. "At the end of the day, if the Phillies left, we would own everything."

New training center

The new 21,000-square-foot center is alongside U.S. 19 north of Drew Street. When its tall concrete walls went up, the local Phillies office started getting calls from curious people asking, What is that?

The building will have six air-conditioned batting tunnels, a large gym for players, a video room, and offices for trainers and conditioning coaches. It's set to be finished by year's end.

On Friday, Joe Cynar and Todd Pope stood with other workers in a cavernous concrete space, the largest room in the building.

Batting tunnels to be installed there will be made of netting that can be retracted when necessary, creating space for players to do other things, said Pope, a project manager for Creative Contractors, which is building the structure.

"We'll never get rained out again," said Cynar, a Carpenter Complex manager for the Phillies.

Last piece

The city had originally planned to build the new structure at an elevation of 23 feet — a foot higher than the 100-year flood plain in that location.

Officials found out that wasn't high enough when Tropical Storm Debby came through. The entire site ended up underwater because it's near Alligator Creek, which is prone to flood during heavy storms, Dunbar said. So the city spent $235,000 is to raise the building's foundation 2.5 feet.

Methane gas was also discovered at the site. The Carpenter Complex was built in the 1960s on 30 acres of old landfill. So the city is spending $115,000 more on a detection and mitigation system to control that.

"For us, this building is the last piece that completes the whole Carpenter Complex," said John Timberlake, the Phillies' director of Florida operations.

Debby's rains also did a number on Bright House Field, turning it into a giant bathtub. "We had about four 4 of water on our field, and 2 to 4 inches of water in all of the first-floor buildings here," Timberlake said.

The city is paying to replace carpeting, drywall, furniture and paint. It will seek reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

   
Comments
Tampa International Airport hasn’t suffered an Atlanta-style loss of power, but it is prepared for one

Tampa International Airport hasn’t suffered an Atlanta-style loss of power, but it is prepared for one

TAMPA — Tampa International Airport sees about one-fifth as many passengers as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, but a major power outage here could cause disruptions to air travel, too.That said, TIA has taken steps to create "redund...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Editorial: Steaks, planes and campaign cash reveal Corcoran’s hypocrisy

Editorial: Steaks, planes and campaign cash reveal Corcoran’s hypocrisy

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran lives the high life. He’s raising big money for the state Republican Party and his political committee, and the cash is being spent on junkets to Napa Valley, charter planes and steak dinners. Lots of steak dinn...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Editorial: Modest improvements to unneeded tax cut package

Editorial: Modest improvements to unneeded tax cut package

The massive tax cut legislation Congress is poised to start voting on today remains terrible public policy. It raises the federal debt by more than $1.4 trillion over the next decade, and it primarily benefits businesses and the wealthy over the poor...
Updated: 10 minutes ago

St. Pete woman killed in Tampa crash trying to avoid dog on I-275

TAMPA — A dog that ran onto northbound Interstate 275 caused a chain-reaction crash that killed a 70-year-old St. Pete Beach woman on Monday afternoon, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place at about 10:45 a.m. on I-275, north o...
Updated: 14 minutes ago

 
Updated: 18 minutes ago
Florida grand jury investigates FSU frat pledge’s death

Florida grand jury investigates FSU frat pledge’s death

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A grand jury is meeting to consider filing charges in the death of a Florida State University fraternity pledge.The Leon County grand jury on Monday interviewed Florida State administrators and those who were at a party with ...
Updated: 26 minutes ago

Land O’Lakes teacher faces felony child abuse charge

LAND O’LAKES — A special needs teacher at Oakstead Elementary School was arrested on a felony charge of child abuse, accused of striking and kicking a 15-year-old in her care over the weekend, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.The event ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Pasco sheriff: Boy, 10, shot while playing with gun

DADE CITY — A 10-year-old boy was shot Monday in what the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is calling an "accidental" shooting that took place when he was left home unattended with another child.Deputies were called at 2:57 p.m. When they arrived at the...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 1 hour ago
First-Citizens Bank & Trust acquires Tampa-based HomeBancorp

First-Citizens Bank & Trust acquires Tampa-based HomeBancorp

TAMPA — North Carolina-based First-Citizens Bank & Trust Co. is acquiring Tampa-headquartered HomeBancorp, which operates HomeBanc. First Citizens Bank will pay $15.03 per share in cash, a Monday release said, and the deal is expected to close by mid...
Updated: 1 hour ago