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Toytown developer says Tampa Bay Rays stadium is not out of the question, gets more time to investigate landfill site

CLEARWATER — The developer of the Toytown landfill said Tuesday he thinks the site has "a lot of merit" as a location for a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark.

Project manager Bill Tippmann, a partner at developer Bear Creek Capital of Ohio, also downplayed the costs and environmental risks of building a stadium atop the closed 240-acre landfill. "It's not an unheard-of accomplishment. That being said, no two landfills are alike."

Even without a stadium, the developer's initial plans call for drilling pilings through waste to support a building platform. Pilings would run into a clay layer that separates the debris from the aquifer below.

Still, Tippmann said no talks have begun with the Rays, and future environmental studies aren't expected to include a stadium project. But findings in a May report were "far more positive" than he expected for the "very, very complicated site," he said.

Tippmann pointed to other major projects that have been built atop landfills, like a mall in Denver.

Locally, the Philadelphia Phillies rejected using an old landfill in Clearwater to build a spring training home in 2001 because of the costs and environmental work necessary.

Bear Creek Capital and its partner companies have faced their own financial troubles, which led them to request another year to continue investigating the site. The County Commission agreed in a 7-0 vote Tuesday, but commissioners pressed for promises that the company is stable.

Tippmann acknowledged the group wants to wait for the economy to rebound and to better understand the costs and development approval process. The current plans also have less retail, office and housing space than originally planned, too.

"We extended all building contracts because of what's going on in the economy," Commissioner Susan Latvala said. "So I think it's appropriate in this situation as well."

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4167.

Toytown developer says Tampa Bay Rays stadium is not out of the question, gets more time to investigate landfill site 06/02/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 2, 2009 8:10pm]
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