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Park events, hotel may not be compatible

Published Oct. 13, 2005

The man behind the $92-million redevelopment of the Vinoy Park Hotel is worried that noise and congestion from festivals in and around Straub Park is going to detract from the hotel when it opens next year. Developer Frederick Guest II told the City Council on Thursday that he is worried too many concerts and festivals in North Straub Park will annoy and inconvenience hotel guests and potential condominium owners.

Guests who will be paying as much as $200 a night at the Stouffer Vinoy Resort when it opens next year might not like the idea of a rock band playing in the park below their windows, Guest said.

Already, he said, some festivals have blocked access to the condominium sales office.

The mayor and some council members agreed that the park is used often for events and that the city should look at other venues for some of the events.

Mayor David Fischer said he recently became concerned that the park is taking a beating and that the grass is beginning to look more like a "dirt bowl."

"We like to have activities down around the waterfront," he said. "There are certain events for which no other area of the city is as attractive.

But when the Vinoy opens, Fischer said, "We need to take a look at what's compatible with everybody in the area. ... Now is the time to deal with it."

Guest and Stouffer Hotels & Resorts are renovating the hotel, which has been closed since 1974.

The resort will have a 74-slip marina, 16 tennis courts, three public restaurants, an elaborate swimming pool, a fitness club, two croquet courts and access to the Sunset Golf and Country Club on Snell Isle.

The $7-million renovation of the golf course will begin Tuesday, Vinoy general manager Jerry Phelps told the council Thursday.

The landmark hotel, across the street from North Straub Park, is to reopen in mid-1992 as the Stouffer Vinoy Resort.

The developers plan to bulldoze the course, then rebuild it. The new course will include 45 sand traps and a half-dozen new lakes. The old Mediterranean-style clubhouse building will be restored. The old pro shop will be demolished and rebuilt, Phelps said.

In just the past three months, Straub Park has been the site of the Taste of Pinellas, the Mainsail Art Festival, the Festival of States Ribfest, the Festival of States Seafood Festival, the Sam Robinson Music Festival and assorted other concerts and activities.

"I think the noise level will impede the hotel's progress," council member Edward Cole Jr. said. He proposed that bands should be set up on the veranda of the Soreno Hotel with Beach Drive closed to traffic between Central Avenue and Second Avenue N.

"We could have programs in the park across the street and give an opportunity for Straub Park North to become a beautiful setting again," Cole said.

Council member Connie Kone said a nearby resident recently complained that noise from the park was rattling the windows of his $650,000 home. "He could not even watch TV or read," she said.

Kone suggested that the city needs to be more vigilant in enforcing its noise ordinance in the waterfront area. "There's no excuse for the people living around there to be driven from their homes," she said.

Williams Park and its band shell also could be a place for some concerts, she said. Other areas suggested as alternate festival and concert sites were Demens Landing, North Shore Park and the Spa Mole.