Rowdies withdraw Town 'N Country stadium proposal

01/13/09 Mitch E. Perry
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A proposal for owners of the Tampa Bay Rowdies to build their own stadium in Town 'N Country was withdrawn this morning after it was apparent that it would not approved by the Hillsborough County Commission in its current form.

Local opposition had formed around concerns about noise and the availability of parking.

The Rowdies would play in the new United Soccer Leagues First Division.

The team’s President and part owner, Andrew Nestor told the Board that opponents had given misinformation about his goals for the proposed $20 million, privately built stadium.

Nestor said that on average, the soccer stadium would host 20 to 23 games a year in the 5,000 seat structure. But plans to increase the capacity to 10,000 and to host musical performances is what has led to criticism from the community.

Fears that concerts could lead to noise problems, a la the Ford Ampitheatre, has become an issue for all concerned. But team President Andrew Nestor said he was prepared to do what it takes to alleviate those concerns.

Jerry Campbell with the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission said concerns about loud noise were taken seriously by his agency.

Another co-owner for the Rowdies is Berns Steak House President David Laxer.

Rowdies management told the Board that in these recessionary times, it was a win win to have private investors build on private land on something that would boost the local economy.

One of the biggest obstacles for the Rowdies owners to get approval to construct the stadium is the lack of parking in the proposal. County rules require one parking space for every three stadium seats, but the team asked for, and was granted permission from the Zoning Master, to have parking only for one out of seven fans.

Pamela Jo Hatley is an attorney representing the Twelve Oaks Civic Association, the community that would be most affected by the new stadium.

Rosemarie Middletown with the Twelve Oaks Civic Association has been leading the effort against the proposed stadium. She said residents had concerns about stadium traffic cutting through the neighborhood.

By the time County Commissioners had a chance to question the Rowdies representatives, skepticism about the lack of parking seemed to paramount in all of their minds.

As it became apparent that sentiment was moving against the Rowdies, Commissioner Jim Norman, a noted sports enthusiast, asked Rowdies President Andrew Nestor if he would consider another site in the county. After hearing a flat out "no," Norman seemed stunned that the Rowdies would not work with him to try to salvage a new possibility.

Norman then mentioned a piece of property off Interstate 4 that is owned by the city of Tampa’s Water Department. That site was unknown to Rowdies officials.

The Commission then voted 6-1 to allow the Rowdies to withdraw the proposal. Commissioner Rose Ferlita was the lone dissenting vote.

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