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Old landfill may open as public golf course

The city agrees to a driving range or small course, which may not have trees or ponds because of what lies beneath.

By RON MATUS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 1, 2002

Thousands of people think of the old Manhattan Landfill as the place to bring tree trimmings.

Priscilla Nelson has a different vision: She sees an opportunity to inspire confidence in young women.

The Bayshore Beautiful golf instructor is one of several people who want to build a golf course on the 29-acre site, which closed in the 1970s and is now a rolling, grassy field.

Classes aimed at girls and young women would complement South Tampa's first public course, she said.

"Golf today is a business person's sport," said Nelson, a member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association. "I can't tell you how many calls from women I get that say, 'I need to learn how to play golf. It's a career move."'

City officials share at least part of that vision.

Last week, they announced plans to seek proposals from developers to convert the landfill into a driving range, a golf course or both. The city would agree to a low-cost, long-term lease as long as the facility was open to the public, open to city-run children's programs and compatible with the neighborhood.

Nelson, who talked to city officials about the idea last year, isn't the only one pushing it.

Bob Harrell, Tampa's deputy administrator for development, said two other developers have expressed interest. Others may surface in a few weeks, once the city begins accepting proposals.

Nelson is partnering with Bill Place, who developed the 15-acre Ace Golf driving range off W Linebaugh Avenue.

It's built on a county-owned landfill.

For the Port Tampa site, Nelson and Place propose a driving range and a 9-hole, par-3 course, which would be less than half as large as a standard course.

"You could play it in a couple hours," said Place, who lives in Hyde Park and developed driving ranges in St. Petersburg and Brandon.

He sees one big hurdle: Fill dirt.

The landfill may require up to two feet of fill, which could cost as much as $1 million, Place said. Without the city chipping in, he didn't think a course would be feasible.

Harrell said the city would cross that bridge later.

"He might be right. He might not be right," he said. "We'll take a look at the proposals when we get them."

The former landfill is south of Interbay Boulevard and west of Manhattan Avenue, which separates Port Tampa from MacDill Air Force Base.

Though no longer used for garbage disposal, it's active as a transfer station for yard waste. On average, 700 people drop off 200 tons of yard waste there each month.

Another old city landfill, this one 18 acres, approaches it from the south. Harrell said the city would entertain proposals for one or both of the properties.

Building golf courses on top of landfills is not unprecedented. Part of the Rogers Park Golf Course in central Tampa is built on an old dump.

Place convinced county officials to let him develop the Ace course.

He said the initial lease was $1,000 a month; now it's $2,000 a month. A lease price for the Port Tampa land has not been decided.

Building on a landfill poses special hurdles.

Just putting in light posts at the Ace site required that dug-up material be placed on plastic tarps and carted to a hazardous waste facility, Place said. The holes had to be back-filled with a special material designed to plug breaches in the landfill liner.

Because of the sensitive nature of the Port Tampa site, trees and ponds are unlikely, Place said.

And plans for it must be okayed by state and county environmental officials.

Once city officials have proposals in hand, they'll review them and make a recommendation to the mayor. A final decision from City Council could be made by early spring, Harrell said.

-- Staff writer Ron Matus can be reached at 226-3405 or

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