The cities of Clearwater and Dunedin are closing in on deals to sweeten the pot for ball clubs to keep spring training baseball.
Clearwater on Thursday agreed to build a new stadium for the Philadelphia Phillies and shoulder more of the operating costs associated with the team's facilities.
And in a surprise push to speed up contract talks with the Toronto Blue Jays, state Sen. Jack Latvala showed up at a special Dunedin commission meeting Wednesday and urged city officials to "make it happen."
Both cities hope to take advantage of legislation approved in May that will distribute $75-million in sales tax revenues among Florida cities with Major League Baseball spring training programs.
The final deadline to have the contract finalized and submitted to the state is Oct. 1, so the clock is ticking.
Also, both cities must go to Pinellas County Tourist Development Council for approval at a 10 a.m. meeting Monday. Then the Pinellas County Commission is scheduled to debate the stadium issues at its 9:30 a.m. meeting Tuesday.
Pinellas County will use money from a hotel bed tax to pay its $10-million share of construction costs for both stadiums, said county budget director Mark Woodard.
"Mom Squad' takes over
in all-female School Board
INVERNESS _ Voters elected two new members to the Citrus County School Board and one incumbent in Tuesday's primary election, creating the first all-female School Board in the county's history.
"I have a new name for us," said board member Pat Deutschman. "We're the Mom Squad."
Incumbent Carl Hansen, who was replaced by teacher Virginia "Ginger" Bryant, had called himself "the last man standing."
Re-elected incumbent Patience Nave said it was hard to say just what the new composition of the board would bring. She did note that she would like to see the entire board go back through special training by the Florida School Boards Association "to learn how to work well together."
It's not the first all-woman school board in the Tampa Bay area, however. In the late 1980s, the Pasco County School Board was Florida's only all-woman school board.
Eckerd College swims out
of red ink with $16.5-million
ST. PETERSBURG _ The chairman of the Eckerd College board of trustees announced Wednesday that $16.5-million in cash and pledges has been raised in the school's effort to step back from the brink of financial disaster.
"The endowment has been rebuilt," Miles C. Collier said during the college's 41st convocation, held in Griffin Chapel to mark the beginning of the academic year.
But two days later, the school got some less rosy financial news: Bond rating agency Fitch IBCA downgraded the credit rating on $15-million worth of Eckerd's outstanding debt from investment grade BBB- to the junk bond status of BB-.
The agency put the college on "watch" recently after news that Eckerd's $34-million endowment had been depleted by about $21-million. The money was spent on various campus projects, including the construction of a new dormitory, but without board knowledge or approval.
News of the depleted endowment two months ago brought the swift retirement of Peter Armacost, who had led the college for 23 years, and J. Webster Hull, the school's chief financial officer. It also badly embarrassed the 52-member board of directors and forced an evaluation of the school's administrative policies.
Teen can't wear shirts
with Rebel flag to school
BROOKSVILLE _ Teenager Joel Roberts was given a choice last week: Leave his favorite T-shirts at home or eventually face suspension from school.
Central High School officials met with Roberts, a junior, and his mother on Thursday to talk about his desire to wear shirts emblazoned with portraits of Confederate generals and Confederate battle flags.
Principal Dennis McGeehan said Roberts, who considers the Confederate flag part of his Southern heritage, is a "good kid" who has never caused problems. But that does not erase the fact that the flag has been a source of animosity on campus.
"I don't question his motives," McGeehan said. "But it's not him I'm concerned with."
In the end, the school decided it won't bend its rule against Confederate flags, and Roberts says he is unsure whether he is willing to endure a legal battle over his T-shirts.
Tampa stunned by low rank
for FAMU law school site
TALLAHASSEE _ Tampa's proposed home for a new law school for Florida's historically black university came in at No. 3 in the rankings released by a state selection committee Tuesday.
Orlando came out on top with its downtown location and the city's pledge to raise $15-million to build the Florida A&M University law school. Lakeland was ranked No. 2, with Tampa and Daytona Beach third and fourth.
The Orlando decision surprised and irked Tampa supporters, from city officials to community boosters to incoming state Senate President John McKay. Tampa officials vowed to continue to fight for the Tampa site before the Board of Regents makes its decision this week.
The Legislature's approval of a law school this spring set off a frenzy of competition from cities that want the prestige of a law school. Lawmakers hope to increase the number of black lawyers in the state: Just 2 percent of Florida's 64,000 lawyers are black.
Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Pat Frank wondered whether the history of the Florida Classic worked against Tampa. The annual football game showcasing the FAMU Rattlers was moved from Tampa to Orlando in 1997 after complaints by fans and alumni of unfair treatment by hotels and retailers.
"There was a lot of conjecture that we were being punished for the Florida Classic problem," Frank said. "There may be more reality to that than we thought."
Committee members said Tuesday that the past problems between FAMU and Tampa didn't affect their scoring. More bothersome, the committee chairman said, were environmental problems at Tampa's proposed site, the old police headquarters north of downtown.
Following a trend, small
movie theater fades to black
BROOKSVILLE _ Add small movie houses to the list of endangered species in the Florida landscape.
The latest victim was the 25-year-old Brooksville Twin Theatres, which closed for good last week.
The closure of the Brooksville institution comes about a month after its corporate owner, Carmike Cinemas, the country's third-largest theater operator, filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court and three weeks after it closed two Tampa-area theaters.
Main Street 6 in Carrollwood and University 6 on E Fowler Avenue closed Aug. 18. A year ago, the company also closed the Pasco Twin Theatre in Dade City.
The closures come at a time when small theaters are suffering nationwide under the shadow of popular megaplex theaters with stadium seating.
Wanda Kelly, executive director of the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce, said the Brooksville Twin's departure had everything to do with competition down the road from bigger theaters.
"We hate to lose them, but I guess that's progress," Kelly said.
Coming up this week
The state Board of Regents meets in Pensacola Thursday and Friday and will vote on a site for FAMU's new law school. Tampa boosters, stung by their city's No. 3 ranking, plan to do some heavy lobbying before that vote.
The governor and Cabinet meet on Tuesday and among other things will consider the Pinellas School Board's rejection of the Marcus Garvey Academy's proposal for an all-black, 45-pupil charter school. The charter was denied because all-black schools can't be allowed under the school district's desegregation plan.
_ Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne
TEAM SPIRIT: Football great Roosevelt "Rosey" Grier builds some team spirit among children helping with preservation work on the historic Hernando School. The big man was in Hernando County on Thursday as a board member of the Milken Family Foundation to help kick off an Inverness Primary School fifth-grade restoration project that the foundation is funding.