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Soccer team christens new sports complex

The county-owned park - which includes nine soccer fields, five baseball diamonds, five softball fields and three concession stands - still hasn't opened to the public.

By JOSH ZIMMER

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 1, 2001


KEYSTONE -- The cleats finally met the turf at the Ed Radice Sports Complex Wednesday morning as the Tampa Bay Mutiny soccer team used its new practice fields.

The $7.6-million regional park, originally scheduled to be finished March 1, still has no official opening date to the general public. Despite an ongoing disagreement between Hillsborough County and its general contractor, the facility is showing signs of future popularity.

The park includes nine soccer fields, five baseball diamonds, five softball fields, three concession stands and more than 800 parking spaces. It was designed to serve current and future residents in the fast-growing area.

County Parks and Recreation Athletic Director Scott Burkett said tryouts for the Hillsborough County United Soccer Club should move ahead on June 9 as scheduled. Club coaching director Adrian Bush has planned an open house for 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The softball and baseball fields should be ready in three to four weeks, Burkett said. A ribbon-cutting may take place around the same time.

The Mutiny will operate out of trailers for the next 8 to 12 months until a permanent training facility with weight and locker rooms is built, Burkett said.

The team worked out for nearly two hours Wednesday, Mutiny spokesman Paul Dodson said. The team is relocating its practice facilities after years in Land O'Lakes.

"It's a newer complex," Dodson said. "The old one was just a number of fields. Plus it gives us something we can call our own. We've never had our own facility."

After months of negotiations, the county and David Nelson Construction of Palm Harbor have narrowed their differences over the cost of change orders to build the complex. But the proposals still differ by $137,000 and both sides are trading testy words.

The sticking point is the county's interpretation of a "no damages for delay" clause in the contract. Project manager Kevin Carbonelli said the county is abusing the provision to deny the company legitimate reimbursement for project delays he said were caused by Parks and Recreation Department change orders.

Nelson is asking for $306,000 -- $139,000 for the change orders and $167,000 for running the job site off South Mobley Road.

"The county thinks they can do anything they want," he said. "We're a little bit irritated" but the company would rather not sue the county to recoup the money, he said.

The county has come back with an overall offer of $170,000. Previously, assistant county attorney Rosemary Perfit called Nelson's figures "grossly inflated" and said the county could actually claim damages for missed deadlines.

"They think it's our fault," she said. "We think a lot of it is their fault."

Despite the disagreement, Nelson never threatened to halt completion of the project. All that remains to be installed is new sinks, Carbonelli said.

-- Times correspondent Rick Gershman contributed to this story.

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