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St. Petersburg gets peek at Olympic dream

The panel pursuing the 2012 games for the bay area offers a tantalizing vision of events in the city.

By ALICIA CALDWELL

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 8, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- In an occasion that was more about pomp than particulars, the public got its first look Wednesday at dreams of 2012 Olympic events in St. Petersburg.

Organizers of the bid to bring the event to Florida unveiled 10 artist's renderings of different events that would be held in the Bayfront Center, Tropicana Field and the streets of the city.

The most detailed drawings showed what a new 14,000-seat diving venue would look like on St. Petersburg's waterfront -- a controversial proposition at best.

It was, however, a day for talk about vision and possibilities.

Even the most renowned of city critics, St. Petersburg City Council member Kathleen Ford, said it was an exciting possibility, but one that needed elaboration of a financial plan. "We haven't heard any hard numbers yet and obviously we're going to have to hear about that," she said.

The details that emerged during the news conference and interviews with organizers included: A dive tank and seating for 14,000 would be on one of three waterfront locations: Spa Beach, Vinoy Park or on a couple of baseball fields just south of North Shore Pool. The structure could be temporary and therefore paid for by the Florida 2012 committee, or it could have a community financial contribution and a permanent component that could convert it into a waterfront amphitheater once the games were over.

The Olympic triathlon would be in St. Petersburg on a course similar to that used for St. Anthony's Triathlon. Bicycle road racing also would be in the city.

Negotiations are ongoing to put basketball and gymnastics in Tropicana Field.

The Bayfront Center would hold wrestling.

A high speed Hovercraft ferry service would link St. Petersburg and Tampa.

Clearwater Beach is a potential site for beach volleyball and sailing.

The marathon would start in St. Petersburg, go across the Friendship Trail on the old Gandy Bridge, wendits way up Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa and end in the Olympic Stadium, the location of which is yet to be revealed.

Mayor David Fischer said that though he was optimistic and excited about the possibility of the games coming to the area, the city has made no commitment to the effort other than to make the venues available on the dates needed.

Fischer would like to see the bid, which is due Dec. 15, include the diving facility as a temporary venue. The public, he said, could debate in another five or six years whether to build a permanent structure on the waterfront.

The campaign for public support, kicked off by Ed Turanchik, president and chief executive officer of the group attempting to bring the games to the Tampa Bay area, is motivated by several factors.

Not only is Florida 2012 trying to generate Olympic enthusiasm. Organizers are hoping to convert that enthusiasm into monetary support, which could give their bid an edge over the other seven cities competing to be the U.S. choice for the 2012 games.

Turanchik said the International Olympic Committee was less than pleased with the revenue generated by the Atlanta Olympic games. Organizers there plowed much of the revenue into building venues and running the games, instead of reaping a profit for the Olympic governing body.

The Olympics -- with its television advertising money, sponsorships, ticket and merchandise sales -- is a huge moneymaking machine.

Part of what would make a Tampa Bay bid attractive, Turanchik said, would be a plan that would send much of that Olympic revenue back to the governing committee.

After the USOC makes its choice in 2002, the International Olympic Committee will make a final decision in 2005.

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