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Port site will be "state of art' fun

Forget the MusicDome, the giant-screen theater and the dinosaur museum. Picture instead an "urban entertainment center" perched on the downtown waterfront.

It has a treasure-hunting museum that includes a flight-simulator ride and a virtual reality attraction. It also has a two-story rock 'n' roll-themed restaurant with a skybox overlooking a 5,000-seat music arena encircled by a giant arcade _ a cornucopia of state-of-the-art entertainment technology intended to draw people downtown.

That's the latest incarnation of the waterfront project being proposed by Deuteron Holdings, the Hamburg, Germany-based real estate company that hopes to bring the concept to urban areas throughout the United States and Europe.

Planners of the project, which over the last three years has taken more shapes than Play-Doh, said Wednesday that the Deuteron urban entertainment center is expected to break ground in April or May and be ready to open a year later in time for the 1996 concert season.

"This is an icon," said Grant Weyman, Deuteron's representative in the United States. "What you see now is the best representation of what we plan to bring to Tampa and think we can bring to other cities in the world. There is nothing like it anywhere."

"I guess you have to give them credit for being pioneers," said Ivan Faggen, worldwide director of Arthur Andersen's Real Estate Services Group in Los Angeles. "There are little pieces of it all over the place, but nobody has put it all together."

Deuteron has just about all the pieces in place, said Andreas Wankum, chairman of Deuteron Holdings. The company is completing the selection of a construction company and a financing company and is negotiating with three potential restaurants, he said. The project already has a concessionaire, and Weyman said a concert operator has been selected, but not signed.

"It's very positive," said a cautious Joe Valenti, director of the Tampa Port Authority, which owns the Garrison Channel land on which the Deuteron project will be built. "I think we're past the concept stage and into the implementation stage."

Wankum estimated the 100,000-square-foot project will cost about $35-million to build.

The star of the show, according to Weyman, is the specialty museum, which he described as a "virtual underwater adventure" that ties in nicely with the nearby Florida Aquarium.

Scheduled to open in March, the aquarium will be the first attraction in the proposed Garrison Seaport Center. A new cruise ship terminal, located between the aquarium and the proposed Deuteron center, is scheduled to open in December.

Initially proposed by two Hollywood music moguls as a domed, 12,000-seat "indoor amphitheater" in 1991, the Deuteron project eventually grew into a 20-story "entertainment complex" with a 16,000-seat music arena, an IMAX super theater, a Planet Hollywood-like restaurant and a comedy hall of fame in 1993.

Then in August, planners scaled back the plans to a $15-million, 5,000-seat arena that could be expanded to 10,000 seats and a proposed treasure museum. There was talk of a dinosaur museum at that point, but the treasure museum was a better fit and less expensive to build, according to Wankum.

"We are sure that in five or 10 years every city will have two or three UECs (urban entertainment centers) so this has to be state of the art," he said.