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Tampa Olympic bidder woos Wesley Chapel

The president of Florida 2012 shares with the New Tampa Community Council why he thinks Tampa Bay is suited for the Olympics and the Olympics for it.

By MICHAEL SANDLER

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 1, 2001


WESLEY CHAPEL -- They drove to Pasco County to see the future. At least, that is how Ed Turanchik made it seem.

At the Saddlebrook Resort on Thursday, Florida's Olympic salesman gave 40 people his pitch to bring the 2012 games to Tampa Bay. He was the featured speaker at the monthly meeting of the New Tampa Community Council.

"Your view of what's possible is the most powerful legacy," he told them during a nearly one-hour presentation.

Turanchik, president and CEO of the Florida 2012 committee, showed a short promotional film used in seeking a bid to bring the summer games to Tampa Bay, talked about the process and answered questions from the group.

The council, a consortium of business owners and residents, invited Turanchik to speak at Saddlebrook, a golf and country club community that could end up playing host to tennis matches if his efforts prevail.

"This was a good opportunity to spotlight one of our members, who has an opportunity to be a venue for the Olympics," said Lynn Grinnell, president of the council.

The night was dedicated to numbers: 4,380 days, 105,120 hours and 6,307,200 minutes until the Olympics arrive, the video began. The Tampa Bay region has more than 200,000 hotel rooms available for visitors and enough soccer stadiums to host every qualifying match in the same state.

The committee estimated 58-million visitors chose Florida as a vacation destination in 1999, and 700-million are expected to come by 2012, reason Tampa gains stature in a bidding field that includes more cosmopolitan cities, such as New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., or San Francisco.

"People have voted with their feet," Turanchik said. "(Florida was) the most popular family tourist destination on an international basis. We are not going to turn this place into Paris or New York City, (but) I think Florida plays very well to the voters."

Some other numbers have attracted attention. The cost of an Olympic Village and 700 new public housing units would be $750-million. High-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando -- approved by voters in last November's election -- could cost up to $1.5-billion and another $35- to $50-million would be needed to build an aquatic center and eco sports hub.

When the costs and revenues are sorted out, the committee projects $3.16-billion in revenues with a surplus of $670-million, the largest surplus ever.

Representatives from competing cities seeking the bid have expressed skepticism over those numbers. Some former host cities have been left with large debt.

Local leaders also have called Florida 2012's goals infeasible.

But that did not stop Turanchik from working the room.

To close, he told moving stories about visiting Sydney for the 2000 Summer Games. One involved an Australian beating his chest before leading a random group in the singing of their national anthem. The second was of a bare-chested, tattooed teenager who solicited Turanchik's opinion on the city's job as host.

"I would never have thought this kid was connected to anything," he said. "And he had this tremendous pride."

- Michael Sandler can be reached at (813) 226-3472.

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