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Building matches tube, but no scheme

A business at the monotube's base says the company color is, by coincidence, light blue, the tube's new hue.

By ANNE LINDBERG
© St. Petersburg Times,
published December 9, 2001


PINELLAS PARK -- One city business has lucked out colorwise.

It will be known as the blue building at the base of the blue monotube.

Not that company officials planned it that way, but they were delighted to discover that Pinellas Park's sewer-brown monotube would be painted light blue.

Light blue just happens to be an almost exact match for the sky blue of the Amscot insurance, check cashing and tax preparer that's ready to open at the southeast base of the tube.

That was not planned, said Ian A. MacKechnie, Amscot vice president. That's just the company's color, he said, although officials were "surprised and somewhat delighted" when they found the tube would be painted to match.

Being able to direct people to the blue building at the base of the blue tube should help when giving directions, MacKechnie said.

MacKechnie said he hopes to have the new office open in two or three weeks, whenever the DOT removes its equipment from Amscot's parking lot.

Although most people and businesses are having a laugh with the monotube and the construction at the intersection, a few do not think the situation is so funny.

The nearby Burger King at 6590 Park Blvd. is hurting as road construction makes it harder for customers to get in.

But for the most part, compliments and praise greeted the unveiling last week of the new light blue paint job on Pinellas Park's infamous monotube. Until Wednesday night, it had been sewer pipe brown.

"I like it 100 percent better," said Rita Bott, executive director of the Pinellas Park/Mid-County Chamber of Commerce.

"The other was oppressive. This is, well, it's kind of cute," Bott said. "It's quite passive now. It is. You'd be surprised what a difference the color makes. It's not as in your face."

Maria Praias, owner of Dog Gone Positive, agreed, saying, "It's a lot better. . . . It's a lot more appealing."

So far, the human customers at Praias' doggy day care and training center in the shopping center at the southwest end of the tube have applauded the color.

Visitors to the tube on Friday morning were uniformly supportive when polled by Mason Dixon's morning show on WYUU-FM 92.5. Dixon and his co-host, two of the pipe's biggest detractors, broadcast live from the intersection Friday morning and handed out coffee and doughnuts as a sort of debut party for the new color.

The decision to hold a "coming-out party" was a matter of fairness, Dixon said.

"We gave that thing so much grief on the radio and had so much fun with the city," Dixon said. But Pinellas Park spokesman Tim Caddell "played along with us," Dixon said. "You can't be mean when everybody there agrees with you and it's out of their hands."

Certainly the atmosphere greeting the blue color was a complete turnaround from the uniform scorn and abuse heaped on the monotube when the Florida Department of Transportation planted it diagonally across the intersection last spring. Some of that scorn was directed at Pinellas Park, which had nothing to do with the tube.

Dixon and his cohorts doctored a photograph of the tube and placed a toilet atop it. They also ran a contest for naming it. Some suggestions: Pinellas Park Brown Arch and Pipey LePew. Others had witty suggestions for its use: as a pneumatic tube to transfer pedestrians safely across the intersection or a handle so a giant could pick up Pinellas Park and easily move the city.

Just because the tube is a more appealing color, however, don't think that the jokes will stop. The station took the old Herman's Hermits song I'm Into Something Good and rewrote it as We're Painting Something Good. The lyrics talk about the monotube.

And, though blue, the structure still needs a name.

"Now instead of Pipey le Pew, they're calling it Pipey le Blue," Dixon said.

DOT explained that the $200,000 tube weighing 30 tons, with a 36-inch girth, was built to withstand hurricane force winds of 130 mph. But those explanations did not satisfy people who were appalled by the appearance of the 21-foot-high, 130-foot span.

The DOT caved in to the criticism and held its own poll, asking people to choose a color. Light blue won. So Wednesday and Thursday nights, DOT employees closed the intersection and spent about $20,600 to repaint the tube with 30 gallons of paint.

Now that it's painted, said Marian Pscion, DOT spokeswoman, upkeep will be the duty of Pinellas County. It might be hard when they want to repaint, she said, because it's not the type of paint you can run over to Home Depot or Lowe's and buy. The county would have to place a special order by number because it does not have an official name other than "light blue."

However, if monotube blue does become the local rage and people want to paint their homes or living rooms "monotube blue," it would be easy to get the paint store to duplicate the color, Pscion said.

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