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TSA won't bid for '96 games

Area sports officials, contemplating a $110-million sports venture that involves the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, decided Monday not to bid for 1996 Olympic soccer games.

"We're on the threshold of, hopefully, devising a plan to put our house in order and ensure our sports future for the next 25 years," said Rick Nafe, the Tampa Sports Authority executive director and member of the local Olympic soccer committee. "When you look at the priorities, Olympic soccer is far down on the list."

The Sports Authority board agreed to send the appropriate response to the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games: Thanks, but no thanks.

The local committee estimated it would have to raise $300,000-$400,000 to stage the event, which included a minimum of six preliminary-round games. While members said that was "doable," they weren't convinced they could draw an average of 20,000 fans for six consecutive nights _ the break-even point for expenses.

Most committee members conceded that would be a hard sell, but some argued it would be worth the price to share in the Olympics, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The biggest obstacle, however, was Tampa Stadium. The field would need to be widened _ at a cost of about 400 seats and $600,000-$750,000 _ to meet the bid specifications.

Nafe said the changes would have been financed "somehow" if Olympic soccer would produce an economic impact such as that anticipated from the World Cup. But the impact, in tourism and exposure, was expected to be minimal, he said.

And then, within the past couple of weeks, Nafe proposed a plan calling for public money to help build an arena for the Lightning and possibly an NBA team, construct a spring training complex for the Yankees and a training center for the Bucs, and renovate the stadium.

"Once we get our own house in order, when some of these things come down the road _ Olympic soccer or the Final Four _ we'll have the wherewithal to go after," Nafe said.

Orlando, one of the nine venues for the 1994 World Cup, and Miami and Jacksonville are expected to submit bids for the Olympic Games by July 15. The Atlanta group will choose three or four sites by Sept. 1.