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"Oh God, here we go again'

Published Oct. 1, 2005

You could call it deja vu, as Tampa Mayor Dick Greco does. Or, deja voodoo. That's Channel 8 reporter Diane Pertmer's description.

However you describe it, the story that won't go away is back.

Circuit Judge Sam Pendino made sure of that when he upheld Bill Poe's contention that part of the Tampa Bay Bucs stadium lease with local government was unconstitutional.

So once again the government lawyers and administrators are spending high-priced hours on the Bucs issue. And once again, reporters are camped in lobbies and hallways, chasing a story that can change drastically between a 5 p.m. live shot and one at 6.

The scene rotated Monday between the stadium site, where workers continued to drive pilings and hang the shell of the stadium's infrastructure, and city hall and the county center.

A 5 p.m. meeting at Mayor Dick Greco's office drew all the usual suspects from the county, the city, the bond offices and the Tampa Sports Authority.

Greco, who spent much of the first two years of his administration on the Bucs and the sales tax issues, tried to be upbeat.

"It's like deja vu," he said. "I ran into (County Administrator) Dan Kleman over the weekend and we looked at each other and started laughing."

TV news directors are wondering if viewers are groaning when the Bucs news returns to the top of the program.

"I sense that people out there are fed up with it and they want it to go away," said Dan Bradley, news director of Channel 8. "But it's kind of mandatory. Whether anybody wants to hear about it, you've got to cover it."

And government officials have to deal with it, often at the expense of other pressing projects.

Earlier in the afternoon, County Commissioner Joe Chillura sat down in a conference room to accommodate the news cameras lurking in the hallway.

"There's nothing happening," Chillura said.

"That's what we're doing a story on," said one reporter.

For reporters like Channel 10's Mike Deeson, the story is a matter of keeping up.

"It was always a story that changed by the hour," he said. "You could be doing your job and still get beat. It was nerve racking."

For Deeson, the stadium deal isn't just a story, it's a career.

"Since Aug. 25, 1994 _ when Hugh Culverhouse died _ I'd say 50 percent of my stories have been on the Bucs," Deeson said.

Friday, when Pendino handed out his ruling, Deeson's reaction was, "Oh God, here we go again."

But Deeson said he really isn't complaining. He likes the story.

"To me, it's not football. It's politics. It's government. It's the inner workings of the city," he said.

It's also a club. Reporters, Bucs executives and government officials are now on a first name basis. While waiting outside the mayor's office Monday, reporters traded war stories.

Like being locked out of a downtown office in the cold, while negotiations went on until almost 2 a.m. Or of rumors that lived and died. The hotshot out-of-town reporters who thought they knew it all. Of countless hours spent in waiting and waiting. For anything.

Cathy Unruh, a reporter for Channel 13, used to be a member of the club. She spent two years on the Bucs story but recently switched to feature stories and longer projects.

"On Friday, when I was watching it like everyone else it felt sort of like I hadn't been invited to the party this time," Unruh said. "But on the other hand, it was a tremendous relief."

Unruh had hoped to see the story to its eventual conclusion, but today she's more realistic: "With this story there isn't a conclusion."