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City sues architects of Tropicana renovations

After being sued by its prime contractor for the Tropicana Field renovation, the city has turned around and sued the project's architects.

Attorneys for the city contend that architectural plans led to any delays and cost overruns the contractor encountered.

The city filed the so-called third party complaint against the Tampa-based architectural firm DLR Group Inc., formerly Lescher & Mahoney, in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court last week.

Neither members of the firm nor their legal counsel could be reached for comment, but the existing 11-month-old suit between city and contractor has described how the architectural plans were at the root of their legal and financial disagreement.

Atlanta-based Beers Construction Co. sued St. Petersburg in September 1998, contending that the city's failure to follow the terms of its $9.44-million construction contract with Beers had cost the company an extra $2.8-million.

Beers' 1998 suit contends that the city had given Beers faulty plans. The company's plans for the $80-million project differed from the plans provided the steel installers, for example, and their plans incorrectly sited important items such as escalators and elevator shafts. Their plans also did not agree with the actual conditions Beers' personnel said they found at the Tropicana work site.

The third-party lawsuit is not surprising, said Stephen O. Cole, a Clearwater attorney representing Beers.

"It's common for the principal players to be drawn into these actions. We view this as an expected development," he said. "It's consistent with our view that the project was delayed and encumbered by virtue of the plans and the planning."

The city had hired Lescher & Mahoney in 1995 to design the renovations for city-owned Tropicana Field to make the domed stadium suitable for Major League Baseball and its new tenants, the expansion-team Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The stadium opened in time for the beginning of the 1998 season, but numerous construction problems plagued the facility for months.

Now, in the third-party suit just filed, the city is alleging that if it did provide inaccurate plans, it was only because "DLR breached, and otherwise defaulted on, its contract with the city by failing to properly design, coordinate and prepare construction documents for the project, thereby damaging plaintiff" Beers.

As for the amount of financial damage allegedly incurred by the city, the new suit states that those calculations will be made by the time the case goes to trial.

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