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Partnership to analyze state fair relocation

A Tampa company and one from St. Petersburg that previously worked together on two other major bay-area projects will tackle the intricate study.

Two companies that worked together to build Raymond James Stadium and the Tampa Convention Center will help the Florida State Fair with one of its biggest projects.

The Tampa office of Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum and the St. Petersburg-based group of KPMG Inc. will do a four-month study of a proposal to move the state fair to south Hillsborough County.

The Virginia-based Mills Corp. wants to move the fair and build the region's largest shopping mall at the fair's current site by Interstate 75 in east Tampa.

On Monday, a state fair board committee selected the two companies to conduct an economic analysis of Mills' proposal.

Mills will pay the $115,000 cost of the study, plus expenses, and also reimburse the fair board as much as $50,000 for its work.

"We're excited to take the next step," Mills vice president Erick Collazo said.

The fair committee picked the two companies after both pledged their credibility and nationally known reputations to the study.

"Accountability is important," said Ronald Barton, national director of the KPMG's convention, sports and entertainment consulting group.

Four members voted for the KPMG and HOK partnership, while three voted for Markin Consulting, which planned to charge $66,000 for the study.

The fair board's chairman, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, asked three groups that competed Monday for the contract to disclose any work they had done for Mills.

He has said he wants the study to be conducted in the public, without any conflicts.

Officials at KPMG and HOK both assured Steinbrenner that they had not done work with Mills.

But in an interview Monday evening, Collazo said he told Duncan Broyd, senior vice president at HOK, during the meeting that Mills and HOK might have worked together on a project at 3Com Park for the San Francisco 49ers.

The 49ers plan to a build a 72,000-seat stadium that would be next to a 1.4-million-square-foot shopping mall built by Mills.

Collazo wasn't sure if HOK was working with the 49ers or with a joint venture created between Mills and the 49ers. "But we will find out tomorrow," Collazo said.

Broyd, the HOK vice president, said the firm's San Francisco office assured him Monday evening that HOK had not done any work with Mills.

Fred Karl, a lawyer hired to help with the proposal, said the committee would not sign a contract with HOK and KPMG for three days, which would give any company a chance to challenge the award.

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