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City loosens grip on water valves

Golf courses, theme parks and Raymond James Stadium get breaks.


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2000

TAMPA -- The city isn't filling two municipal pools because of the drought but is giving breaks on tough water restrictions to golf courses, Raymond James Stadium and Busch Gardens.

The Palma Ceia Golf & Country Club and two city courses, Rocky Point and Babe Zaharias -- received variances Thursday that allow watering greens and tees three times a week.

But city water officials refused a request from the Tampa Sports Authority, which operates the city courses, to irrigate fairways twice weekly. The agency also wanted to irrigate the greens every night and tees every other night.

Palma Ceia's application matched what the city allowed on fairways and tees. But the city made the country club scale back its request to water greens five times a week.

Palma Ceia and the sports authority said that grass would be damaged or die without more frequent watering.

But University of Florida turf experts said the city's rules were adequate to maintain the courses, said India Williams, the water department's consumer affairs manager.

"We're trying to come to some compromise where they have a minimized loss," she said. "We don't want to put anyone out of business."

Another city course, Rogers Park, irrigates with recycled water and is exempt from the rules.

Last month, city Water Department Director David Tippin told city recreation officials they couldn't fill the Bobby Hicks Pool in south Tampa and the pool at Copeland Park just south of Fowler Avenue because of the water shortage. The pools were supposed to open earlier this month.

The sports authority also received a variance last week to water the playing field at Raymond James Stadium as many days as needed to preserve the turf.

The turf, Tifway 419 Bermuda grass, grows on 12 inches of sandy soil atop a 4-inch layer of gravel with an extensive drainage system.

That makes the field playable even in heavy downpours. But it also keeps the soil from holding moisture for more than 24 hours, Dan Morgan, a consulting agronomist, wrote to the sports authority. Two days of temperatures in the 80s would kill the turf, he wrote.

Under its variance, the sports authority can't irrigate the field between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. or water any landscaping at the stadium more than once a week.

Busch Entertainment Corp. filed a six-page request to exempt Busch Gardens and Adventure Island from a wide range of restrictions in the city's emergency watering ordinance.

The city allowed the attractions to wash sidewalks, trams that carry passengers and strollers for kids.

Officials also let Busch Gardens irrigate new turf and landscaping twice weekly for 30 days after it was installed.

But the parks were denied an overall exemption to water the grounds twice weekly, and Busch Gardens was turned down for an exemption to run misters to cool off guests at two rides.

- Steve Huettel can be reached at (813) 226-3384, or at

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