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TSA told it needs a new ballpark // Tampa Stadium can't compete in future: consultants

The Tampa Sports Authority's long-range planning committee was told by a local consulting firm Thursday that Tampa Stadium will have to be razed and rebuilt, or a new facility will have to be constructed elsewhere if Tampa is to have a competitive, state-of-the-art stadium. The TSA committee - which commissioned Peat Marwick to evaluate the adequacy of Tampa Stadium - voted unanimously to proceed with the study, review alternate sites and appraise the current one.

"It was kind of a foregone conclusion that we have to look further," said Lon Hatten, the chairman of the long-range planning committee. "Nothing they said was surprising. Now, within the next six months, we should have a real good idea of what we're going to do and where we're going to do it."

Paul Reilly, a partner with Peat Marwick, told the committee members that losing land to Tampa International Airport within the next 20 years didn't necessitate a relocation of the facility.

The loss of 34 acres and another 31 acres that would be affected by TIA's absorbing land south of Tampa Stadium would not drastically reduce the on-site parking once spots were narrowed, Reilly said.

However, he said the key concern is Tampa Stadium's desirability.

And Reilly said the facility is aging, and not too gracefully. For example, he cited the following flaws that hurt revenue and make it less competitive nationally: The stadium is basically limited to hosting football. Significant alterations are needed and planned for the 1994 World Cup soccer tournament.

Club seats - high-priced reserved seats that most newer facilities have (Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami has 9,000 such seats) - would be almost impossibleto add.

The stadium's design lacks a variety of seating that could be used to stagger prices.

Concession facilities and rest rooms are antiquated.

"The concern has to be from the competition of new and proposed

facilities," Reilly said. "We're not saying they have to relocate, but they should look at the alternatives. But by the time they're done redeveloping, if that's what they decide to do, it would cost more than if they did it from scratch."

No one could have been happier to hear that than Joe Smith of Real New World Land Consultants in Apollo Beach. Smith has been trying to sell the TSA on his Sports-Plex, a proposed multi-function sports facility in south Hillsborough County, for more than a year.

"Their study vindicates our assumptions since we started talking about the Sports-Plex," Smith said. "That it's time to move on. It's time for Tampa Bay to change its signature and to go into the 21st Century boldly."

Peat Marwick will now hear presentations and review the proposals of 12 land developers, including Smith's group, in mid-April. Also, Knight Appraisal Services will assess the value of the current site, which is the first time that's been done.

Those two phases will cost the TSA approximately $28,000, bringing the total cost of the study to an estimated $85,000. That's nearly $90,000 under budget.