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Plans likely to change face of Williams Park // Bandstand may be removed

As the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority inches closer to eliminating the bus terminal at Williams Park, city officials are considering the demise of another downtown tradition. City Manager Robert Obering said Thursday that his staff is studying the idea of removing the Municipal Pavilion and Bandstand from the north end of the park. Obering said the 36-year-old structure needs repair and is not used as much as it once was.

"It's lost a lot of its popularity and lost a lot of concerts it used to have," Obering said.

The band shell, which is surrounded by aluminum benches, was dedicated in 1954. It replaced a band shell that was built in 1922.

Obering said his managers also are discussing the idea of moving the structure to another location.

The news did not sit well with some park regulars, including Larry Pierce, 80, who said the city would be removing part of his history.

Pierce worked as a musician in St. Petersburg 50 years ago and Thursday remembered when symphony concerts were held in the band shell every afternoon.

"It was beautiful," he said. "Every day, the place would fill up. I think they should use it more."

The council, he added, "should cater more to the older people."

Winter resident Don Wilson, 70, said he liked the band shell because it was unique.

Said his mother, 88-year-old Violet Wilson: "Oh, we think it's nice and we look forward to it. It gives the people something to do."

A vacationing tourist said he doesn't understand why the city would even consider taking the band shell down, since so many people enjoy the park.

"If it isn't a big crime generator or a big cost for the city to keep it up, why spend money to take it away?" asked Tom Brenner, of Arlington, Va. The removal would be part of a major plan to spruce up the park.

A committee of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce has been planning to raise about $600,000 for the improvements, which would include wrought iron entrance gates, a large water fountain, decorative lamp posts, new landscaping and wooden benches to replace the aluminum benches.

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