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Turning trash into treasure: Toytown site to become youth sports center

Veronica Brezina

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Photo by Ben Hershey/Unsplash

The former Toytown landfill site will be redeveloped into a youth sports center, thanks to funding approved by the Florida Legislature. 

The legislature recently approved Pinellas County receiving $15 million of funds to transform the 240-acre Toytown site, located near Interstate I-275 and Roosevelt Boulevard, that the county has long struggled to develop.

An image from a 2015 advertisement of the site shows the close proximity to major employers and the access to the interstate. Image: Pinellas County.

The landfill has been closed since 1983, freeing up hundreds of acres. The site may seem like a hidden gem for developers given its scale, proximity to major employers and access to the interstate system; however, over the years when the property was utilized, layers of waste have accumulated beneath the surface. 

The approved funding will go toward the environmental remediation efforts for Toytown. The funds were made possible through recent appropriation requests filed by Sen. Ed Hooper and Rep. Nick DiCiglie. The original appropriation request was $10 million

“Whether $15 million is enough to cut the grass there, we don’t know yet, but that’s in the state budget,” Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice said during a Wednesday Pinellas County Tourist Development Council budget meeting. 

The funds will likely not cover the entire remediation process, and it will also have to survive the governor’s vetoes. 

Years ago, the Atlanta Braves were considering moving its spring training to Toytown, and officials discussed the site potentially housing the Tampa Bay Rays if the team elected to stay in the area. 

Justice also mentioned the complex wouldn’t be the first of its kind within the county, as local developer Les Porter of Porter Development is planning to build a new sports campus.

Porter wants to buy an 87.9-acre property owned by the City of Largo and turn it into a 170,000-square-foot sports complex. Similarly, the site was also used as a landfill site and thus, would have to go through environmental remediation efforts just as the Toytown site would have to undergo. 

Plans show the Largo facility would include a 60,000-square-foot indoor pickleball court and a 10-acre lagoon.  

Porter was previously seeking to turn a property near the Tyrone Square Mall into a sports complex. The site, formerly occupied by aerospace and defense firm Raytheon, had groundwater contamination on the site. 

The vision for the Tyrone property never came to fruition. Porter withdrew the zoning application. 

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