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Back to the drawing board for Toytown property

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Pinellas officials have tried for years to figure out what to do with Toytown, a 240-acre closed landfill in the Gateway area.

They tried selling it but had no takers. So last year, in an effort to spark some interest, they asked for proposals and got three – a mixed use development, a solar farm, and a sports complex.

The $662-million sports complex, which would have been anchored by a spring training center for the Atlanta Braves, caught officials’ eyes. But county officials weren’t sure they could commit the necessary money to the project until a decision had been made on the future location for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Charlie_Justice_5x7Before any decision could be made, Pinellas Commissioner Charlie Justice said, the Braves pulled out. Then the developer, SportsPark Partners, LLC, pulled out. Now the county’s pulling out.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote Tuesday to reject not only the SportsPark proposal, but also the other two.

“It just wasn’t going anywhere,” Justice said.

Justice said it’s unclear what will happen from here. It’ll likely stay on the county’s “for sale” list. Other than that, it’s wide open. Commissioners haven’t discussed the future of the acreage with the county’s economic development experts.

Part of the difficulty in developing the property, Justice said, is the acreage’s past as a landfill. It’s unknown what’s underneath the center of the property and what kind of development it would support.

But, if it proves buildable, the property is in a prime location near I-275, and the Gandy and Howard Frankland bridges. It’s an area that has often been mentioned as a possible site for the Rays.

Now that it’s available, does this mean it could be the next home for the Tampa Bay Rays?

“Theoretically, yes,” Justice said.

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