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Sunday, Sep 24, 2017
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Hixon grass left worse for wear after RNC

TAMPA - The Republican National Convention vanished faster than it went up, but one place still bears some scars from the extravaganza: Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. The downtown park now has an enormous patch of dead or dying grass exactly the shape of the 30,000-square-foot party tent erected nearly three weeks ago there. The tent came down Monday evening, but the damage has city park officials scrambling to make short-term repairs ahead of this weekend's Summerfest concert. "It was like watching your child get hurt in an accident," city parks director Greg Bayor said. "It's a lesson learned."
Going forward, the city will place new limits on how long tents and other structures can cover the grass, he said. Tampa Sports Authority turf expert Steven Hunter met with the city's own turf experts at the park this afternoon. Their recommendation: Aerate, fertilize and water the existing turf in an effort at "temporary rejuvenation." Crews will also cover the damaged areas in coarse sand to limit further damage from the 5,000 people expected for Summerfest, Bayor said. The city's contract with Jamestown Entertainment, the company that erected the party tent for RNC-related events, says Jamestown must pay to repair the park. That could run as high as $40,000 – the cost of laying sod in the park. Jamestown officials said they'll do that. "We will be in contact with the vendors and the city to oversee this process," said Jamestown CEO Freddie Wyatt. Summerfest will fill the park with more tents, including a 1,500-square-foot air-conditioned VIP lounge, and thousands of music fans milling about on the damaged grass. After that, the catalog of events includes Rock the Park, a concert series held the first Thursday of each month; an Octoberfest event next month; and "Strides for Strays," a dog-adoption event later next month. University of Florida turf expert Laurie Trenholm said the city is inviting problems if it goes ahead with that schedule "This is strictly a Band-Aid," she said. "But if there are all these events booked for this area, then there is trouble." Bayor hopes to persuade groups booked for the park to hold their events elsewhere. "I'm willing to offer incentives to get people to move off-site," he said. A four-week reprieve will give the city a chance to plant cool-season rye grass over the park, making it usable until traffic lightens later this fall and the city can lay new sod, possibly this winter. It's not an optimal solution, Bayor said. "But it's the best we can do with so many events wanting to use this great space," he said.

kwiatrowski@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7871 Twitter: kevinw_trib

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