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Golf cart record may get run over

Move over, Sun City Center, your world's longest golf cart parade title is in jeopardy. And it's not just from the upstarts at Sandy Pines RV Resort in Hopkins, Mich., who say they drew 404 golf carts for their parade in August.

Residents of Timber Pines, an adult community built around golfing, plan to upset the golf cart hierarchy.

Organizer Lou Beneduce is signing up participants for a parade at 2 p.m. March 15 from the Timber Pines community center parking lot to the community lodge. As of Thursday, Beneduce had signed up 247 cart owners to participate.

"We've got over 3,000 units and a good percentage have golf carts," Beneduce said.

Sun City Center holds the title for the World's Longest Golf Cart Parade, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The Tampa-area community earned the honor when it strung together 306 carts in a parade Dec. 5. The event eclipsed Sun City Center's earlier record of 191 carts, set in 2002.

Although the parade in Hopkins reportedly attracted more than 400 golf carts, Guinness informed Sun City Center on Jan. 9 that it still owns the record. Why is unclear.

Rooftop thief spins a web of intrigue

TAMPA _ Spiderman strikes again. Twice, in fact.

Just when detectives thought he was slowing down, a lithe, wall-scaling burglar who breaks in through rooftops hit two South Tampa businesses last week.

The latest break-ins occurred at Sunkote Paint Center, 102 N Tampania Ave., and Blinds to Go, 625 N Dale Mabry Highway.

That brings to 41 the number of commercial burglaries in South Tampa that detectives have tied to the elusive suspect, who first struck in September.

He typically enters an air conditioning vent from the roof and maneuvers his way until he gets inside the business, in some cases without ever tripping a burglar alarm or motion detector, Tampa police Sgt. Jim Contento said.

He wears knee pads and what looks like a sweat suit, according to security photos. His hands and face are covered. And because he goes in through the roof, he gets in and out without being seen.

"I don't see how he does it," Contento said. "He goes in through these A/C systems, and it's dangerous. It's small, it's dark. There's big metal screws sticking out.

"He's committed over 80 felonies, and for what? Small chump change. But when we catch him, he'll pay a dear price."

Phillies will play in Bright House stadium

CLEARWATER _ With construction nearly complete on their $28-million ballpark, the Philadelphia Phillies added one final touch: a name.

Bright House Networks agreed to pay the Phillies $1.7-million over 10 years to get its name on the team's new stadium. The cable company and the Phillies announced the Bright House Networks Field name on Tuesday.

Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst, whose full-time job is government relations director for Bright House, said he was not involved in the negotiations but praised the end result.

"I think it's a nice arrangement between both entities," he said. "It'll be a nice partnership."

The complex is scheduled for completion Feb. 6. The first spring training game is scheduled for March 4.

The stadium will be used in spring training by Phillies major league and minor league players.

McDonald's tries upscale bistro menu in East Lake

EAST LAKE _ You say McDonald's isn't the place to find a grilled chicken panini sandwich, creme brulee cheesecake and cappuccino?

This not-so-fast food is part of an experiment at the McDonald's at 3480 East Lake Road, just north of Tampa Road in East Lake.

McDonald's calls it "bistro gourmet." Servers in green uniforms and visors now mix with chefs in poofy white hats. Fare such as panini sandwiches fills trays next to value meals.

The McDonald's is one of about 10 in Florida and the only one in Tampa Bay trying out a new menu of upscale sandwiches, desserts and coffees. Owners say the response has been great.

Beth Plotkin, McDonald's marketing manager for the Florida region, said bistro gourmet is a new but growing concept, with most outlets in Orlando.

The East Lake location is serving as a local test for the new menu line, so no other bistro gourmets are planned in the Tampa Bay area for now, she said.

Skateboarding fans dislike city's choice of park builder

ZEPHYRHILLS _ The dudes are dissing the skate park under way in Zephyrhills.

It seems the company that manufactures the modular steel ramps and obstacles for a planned skateboard park doesn't have universal approval among the sport's enthusiasts.

Abraham Stewart, a 24-year-old Port Richey resident, wrote a critical letter to the St. Petersburg Times' Pasco edition after reading that Zephyrhills has contracted with Skate Wave to build the $120,000 park.

"Their skate parks are clown shoes compared to all of the new concrete parks," Stewart wrote Jan. 16.

A story in Big Brother, a skateboard magazine, is similarly critical of Skate Wave, saying many professional skaters dislike the design of its parks.

But Shane LeBlanc, Zephyrhills parks and recreation manager, said professional skaters are not the target audience.

"We're really not targeting a certain group," LeBlanc said. "We're trying to make it a good general purpose skateboard park for as many kids as possible."

Bill Dietrick, spokesman for Skate Wave parent company Landscape Structures, said the company tailors its parks to the preferences of its clients, mainly municipalities.

"Typically, parks and recreation directors are going to want a park that will appeal to beginning and intermediate kids," Dietrick said. "We just try to engage the community and give them what they want."

In short . . .

+ CLEARWATER _ Morton Plant Hospital is building its own child care and preschool center to help recruit nurses who have infants and toddlers. "We find that many health care workers will actually put off returning to work because of the lack of resources for infant care," said Marcia Albanese, director of women's services at Morton Plant Hospital.

+ ST. PETERSBURG _ The Rev. David Melendez, founding pastor of Pinellas Community Church, has resigned to lead a church in California. Twice last summer, the 38-year-old minister tearfully confessed to his congregation that he had taken church funds for his own use and given himself unauthorized raises. The scandal led to the departure of prominent members, including several trustees. Until then, the church's growth was phenomenal, expanding from a dozen people to 1,000 in just nine years, according to the church's Web site.

Coming up this week

+ On Wednesday, the Hernando County legislative delegation will meet to consider curbing Weeki Wachee's powers. Complaints have been escalating about the city, which now has 20 voters, because the managers of the mermaid attraction have increased taxes to pay for its legal bills and repairs to the decaying park.

+ Atlanta Braves pitcher Mike Hampton will meet with the Citrus County Commission on Tuesday to talk about using his foundation to help build the largest sports complex in the county. The Homosassa native was spurred to action when his own kids children a hard time finding available soccer and football fields.

_ Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne.

MERMAIDS ON FILM: Boyd Matson tapes a documentary on Weeki Wachee Springs' uncertain future for National Geographic Channel's On Assignment. Mermaids swim behind the glass of the amphitheater as the camera captures the scene Monday. "This is part of who we were in the 1940s, '50s and '60s," Matson said. "This country was, in part, defined by its highway system. Part of making trips bearable, doable and enjoyable were the roadside attractions." The broadcast date for the episode has not been set.

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