Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

This Hillsborough sports park idea is different. Yeah, right

Ever wonder why some folks get cynical about government? Consider the case of what sure looks like the stealth sports park.

Maybe you remember it: Hillsborough County Commissioner (and notably, 2010 state Senate hopeful) Jim Norman had a vision.

He looked east, toward 425 acres of rural land near Plant City, and there he saw a glorious, sprawling amateur sports complex with lots of multi­purpose fields and facilities.

Some thought Norman's "Championship Park" a vanity project. But Norman contended it could pay for itself, hosting tournaments from regional to national, maybe even a minor league team.

Putting aside whether this would have been a really expensive parting gift for a popular politician about to leave his post, the truth is Norman's project might have been a nice perk in better economic times.

Kind of like you or me buying a summer home at the beach instead of worrying about how much movie tickets cost, or dining nightly at Bern's rather than stressing over the price of groceries.

Sweet, if you can afford it.

Questions were raised about sprawl, about a consultant's contention that such a venture could make money.

But the most glaringly obvious snag was the $40-million price tag and the very bad timing.

Why in the world, people wondered, were we even talking about such a luxury when local governments were busy belt tightening and talking layoffs and service cuts?

And so the sports park came up for a vote at a commission meeting in October. Predictably, most citizens who spoke came out against it.

No, we don't want to spend the money.

No, we don't want to take the risk.

And, finally, no from each of Norman's fellow commissioners, with even his board buddies unwilling to brave the political fallout to stand by him on this one. No, no and no.

And so Norman's dream died with the vote.

"From the bottom of my heart, kids lost today," he said sorrowfully, and it was over.


Did I say over?

The Times' Bill Varian reported this week that the county Parks Department's pending master plan has a little something in there about evaluating "the feasibility of constructing a large, revenue-generating sports facility."

Well, that sounds familiar.

The head of the Parks Department says this is absolutely not Championship Park II, Keeping the Dream Alive. He says it would likely be smaller than what Norman had in mind.

For his part, Norman says he is not the man behind this latest.

Interestingly, he also confirmed that he recently spoke to Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio about using some land for a revenue-generating park out where the city owns 400

acres. This has to do with a city-county partnership, he said.

"A park is a park is a park," Commissioner Rose Ferlita said this week. "We can't afford it."

Well said. Why handing over a chunk of change we can't spare for something we don't need should sound any better seven months after that resounding "no" vote is a mystery.

No wonder some folks get cynical about politics. Particularly when we get the distinct feeling we've heard this one before.

This Hillsborough sports park idea is different. Yeah, right 05/08/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 9, 2008 6:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump awards Medal of Honor to Vietnam-era Army medic (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday turned a Medal of Honor ceremony for a Vietnam-era Army medic who risked his life to help wounded comrades into a mini homework tutorial for the boy and girl who came to watch their grandfather be enshrined "into the history of our nation."

    WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 23:  Retired U.S. Army Capt. Gary Rose (L) receives a standing ovation after being awarded the Medal of Honor by U.S. President Donald Trump during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House October 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Rose, 69, is being recognized for risking his life while serving as a medic with the 5th Special Force Group and the Military Assistance Command Studies and Observations Group during ‘Operation Tailwind’ in September 1970. Ignoring his own injuries, Rose helped treat 50 soldiers over four days when his unit joined local fighters to attack North Vietnamese forces in Laos - officially off limits for combat at the time.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) 775062921
  2. Long day of diplomacy: Tillerson visits Afghanistan, Iraq


    BAGHDAD — Far from the Washington murmurs about his future, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to two of America's enduring war zones Monday, prodding leaders in Afghanistan and Iraq to reach out to longtime rivals.

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, center, speaks Monday at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, accompanied by Gen. John Nicholson, left, and Special Charge d’Affaires Amb. Hugo Llorens.
  3. Head-on crash kills Wesley Chapel teacher and Zephyrhills man


    TAMPA — Two men, including a high school math teacher, were killed Monday in a head-on crash on Morris Bridge Road, deputies said.

  4. Pinellas sees slight increase in black and first-year teachers


    A year after the Pinellas County school district was chastised in a state report for clustering inexperienced teachers in the state's most struggling schools, the district has reported a first look at its teacher corps.

    The Pinellas County school district has taken a first look at first-year teachers in struggling schools and minority hiring, both of which ticked slightly upward.
  5. Editorial: Trump owes apology to fallen soldier's Miami family


    There is no more sacred, solemn role for a president than to comfort grieving family members of soldiers who have given their lives in service of their country. Those calls cannot be easy, and some presidents are better at it than others. Yet President Donald Trump and his administration continue to engage in a …