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Gulfport Casino set for its renovations
By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 6, 2000
GULFPORT -- The final site plan for nearly $1-million in renovations to the historic Gulfport Casino on Tuesday received City Council approval. Construction is expected to begin within the next six weeks.
"The Casino is an icon for Gulfport," said Mayor Michael Yates as he and the council, sitting as the city's community redevelopment agency, asked for last-minute changes and additions to the renovation project.
For nearly a century, the Casino has hosted dancing, boxing, wrestling, church services, card parties, bingo games, political speeches, concerts, school events and weddings.
The present Casino, at 5500 Shore Blvd. S, is the third building on the site. According to Commissioner Lynne Brown, the first casino was built in 1905 as the landside terminus of a trolley bringing vacationers from St. Petersburg to beach-bound ferry boats. That casino was destroyed in a 1921 hurricane and was rebuilt in 1925.
The second casino was declared unsafe in 1930 and rebuilt for a third time with federal funds in 1935. It was renovated in 1950 when the roof was replaced and air conditioning was added, and again in the 1960s when new ceilings and a women's lounge were installed.
The current renovations will be completed in two phases. All changes have to meet state requirements for historic buildings. The $976,714 project is funded by a $275,000 grant from the state Bureau of Historic Preservation and more than $700,000 in Penny for Pinellas tax revenue.
Bids for the first exterior phase will be submitted to the city on Aug. 17, with construction scheduled to start later this month or by September. The Casino will be closed but should reopen in November for winter season activities. The Casino will close again in May 2001 for the interior renovations. The entire project is to be completed by fall 2001.
The biggest change will be the reorientation of the main entrance from the north side of the building to the west side. The existing entrance doors will become emergency exits. From a refurbished deck and a new set of stairs, Casino visitors will walk through a double-door grand entrance, according to drawings submitted by architect John Parks.
Other exterior changes will include the addition of handicap ramps, expanded and landscaped decking at the waterfront side of the building and a new window with an unobstructed water view.
Parks said nearly 200 exterior asbestos panels will be replaced and air-conditioning units will be moved and screened on the south side of the building. Colored, patterned concrete will be used on the west and south Casino decking.
The interior renovations are expected to re-create the original look of the mid 1930s building. The solid maple dance floor will be preserved.
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