One of the official rites of spring is being interrupted by an unruly group of hooligans in a Pinellas Point neighborhood.
A recent incident at Lake Vista Park got the attention of Mayor Bill Foster, council member Steve Kornell, St. Petersburg police and a host of officials in City Hall.
The sprawling recreation complex is home to the Baypoint and Burg youth baseball leagues. The Baypoint league has six teams and about 80 players and uses the complex Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The Burg's 16 teams with 200 players play Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Police were called to the park at 1450 60th Ave. S about 8:30 p.m. on April 8. Police spokesman George Kajtsa said initially a fight started between four girls — two white, two black. A short time later, an altercation between two males ensued, along with rumors of a gun-wielding teen. By the time police arrived, most involved with the fighting had dispersed, and others refused to cooperate.
A day later, Foster, police and city officials were in the park, walking the perimeter and talking to officials from the Burg league.
Since that time the park has been spruced up, said Charles Castle, president of Burg Baseball Inc. "They came in and took care of a lot of the problems."
Jeff Goodis, 41, whose son plays for the Kansas City Royals in the Burg league, said on Monday a crew from Parks and Recreation cut back all the overgrowth in a grove that seemed to be a gathering spot for the group causing most of the problems.
By Tuesday, there was a strong police presence, graffiti at the skate park had been removed, picnic tables where small groups hung out had been removed and new lighting had been installed.
The Police Department's Gang Intelligence Team was dispatched and has been making the rounds at the park, said Kajtsa.
While the city's response was swift, there is still the potential for problems. While talking with officials and parents for this column, I saw a group of 24 teenagers move away from the park as police approached.
It would be a shame if officials allow one of the most active parks in the city to be overrun by hooligans.
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Okay, I admit I'm not a fan of American Idol. But I'm intrigued by the buzz that St. Petersburg native and finalist Michael Lynche has generated.
American Idol judges recently saved him from being booted off the show, and now there's a push locally to vote for Lynche because it would mean the city would get some free air time.
From City Hall to the Pier, to the Royal Theater — even Facebook pages like "I Love the 'Burg" — are encouraging residents to vote for Lynche. His church, Tradewinds Christian Church at 6740 Park St. in South Pasadena, has been hosting Tuesday night watch parties since March 23.
The city has posted an unofficial Michael Lynche fan page that includes photographs — stpete.org/marketing/michael_lynche.asp. It also has a flipping story on its home page reminding residents to tune in to the show on Tuesday and vote, said Jenelle Steeg, an information specialist in the marketing department.
If Lynche makes it as one of three finalists, an American Idol crew will come to town around May 14 to tape a homecoming of sorts for Big Mike, who now lives in New York. So the Sunshine City, with its beautiful sweeping waterfront vistas, would be showcased on one of the most popular prime-time television shows.
Pier advertising and promotions manager Susan Robertson, an Idol fan, said she's excited that the Pier, which hasn't been officially contacted, could be one of the sites the Idol crew considers for a backdrop to tell Lynche's story.
Now that's worth a vote or two.
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Sandra J. Gadsden is assistant metro editor/community news. She can be reached at (727) 893-8874 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/StPeteSandi.