Porter Development in Clearwater wants to build a mixed-use project focused on sports tourism on 29 acres near Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg.
The redevelopment plan includes a 150,000 square foot indoor sports, events and recreation facility, and an adjacent four-acre lagoon and outdoor recreation area, according to a rezoning application filed with the City of St. Petersburg on behalf of Porter Development. It also would have indoor and outdoor restaurants and retail spaces, a container park and apartments.
Les Porter, president of Porter Development, said the venue has the potential to be transformational for the community.
“We hope to create a world class facility with multigenerational programming that engages all in the local community and fosters the love of sport in all, especially in our youth. We believe sport can be a vehicle to help heal some social issues,” Porter told the St. Pete Catalyst.
The project would be located on 29 acres of vacant land at 1501 72nd St. N., at the southeast corner of 72nd Street North and 22nd Avenue North. It is southwest of Tyrone Square Mall, east of Azalea Park and west of the Pinellas Trail.
The site formerly was occupied by Raytheon, an aerospace and defense firm. It was found to have groundwater contamination more than a decade ago. Raytheon, which is responsible for the cleanup, built a cleaning facility on the south end of the property several years ago. That facility will remain in place, and Raytheon will retain ownership and operational responsibility of the cleaning facility, Porter said.
There is infrastructure on the perimeter of the site that’s being used to clean the groundwater. Porter said his company will work closely with Raytheon and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to ensure that infrastructure is not disrupted during the development.
Porter previously developed The Shoppes at the Royale on 66th Street, about a mile from the proposed sports venue, and said he received thoughtful feedback from most residents in the area on that project, as well as help and encouragement from the city’s planning staff. He said he had been working on the sports complex for quite some time before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and now has found “the perfect property” to bring the project to market.
“We believe there is and will continue to be a strong demand for these venues as the sports tourism industry continues its growth. While, like every other industry these last few months have been difficult, we believe the long term future of the industry is still very strong,” Porter said.
“The multifamily component of the project is much needed as well. As everyone is aware, demand is outpacing supply for housing. This lack of supply is driving housing prices and rental rates. This problem will be exacerbated without new supply. We are hopeful to bring a fun and exciting place to live while adding housing supply to the market.”
Porter is contemplating partnering with a group that specializes in multifamily development. Those discussions are ongoing, he said.
The rezoning application was filed with the city June 8, but the project has remained largely under wraps. Residents of the nearby area said a sign announcing the project went up on site only recently.
A hearing before the St. Petersburg Community Planning and Preservation Commission is scheduled next month, Porter said.
The project would have a major economic impact, the application said, citing an analysis by Sports Facility Advisors, a Clearwater firm that specializes in developing sports and events centers all around the country. SFA is consulting with Porter Development on the project.
The indoor facility would be expected to host a total of 86 sports and non-sports events ranging from one to three days in length, and resulting in $16.1 million in economic impact from new direct spending each year, according to an analysis by SFA. In addition to the indoor facility, the lagoon is expected to drive more than $1.3 million in economic impact from direct spending.
Over 20 years, the cumulative total economic impact is forecast at $369.4 million, the analysis said.
About 58 jobs would be created in the first year of operation, with a payroll of more than $2.3 million. The project is expected to create 81.5 full-time equivalent jobs by its fifth year of operation.
The application does not disclose the estimated construction cost. Current plans call for it to be privately financed, Porter said.
He has had some general economic discussions with St. Petersburg and Visit St. Pete/Clearwater officials, and hopes to continue those discussions about how there may be a potential opportunity for a public/private partnership that could enhance the project.
One potential source of funding is the Pinellas County tourist development tax, or bed tax, a 6 percent tax collected on accommodations in Pinellas County rented for less than six months. The tax can be used to fund capital projects that drive tourism.
The capital funding program is on hold for now because bed tax revenue is down amid a slowdown in travel during the Covid-19 pandemic, said Tim Ramsberger, chief operating officer of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater. Still, developers can make an off-cycle funding request, with a decision up to the county’s Board of County Commissioners.
“We would welcome any facility that comes online that helps us increase our amateur sports program and drives tourism,” Ramsberger said.