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Monday, Oct 23, 2017
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RNC parties might doom Curtis Hixon park grass

TAMPA Bit by bit, an enormous party tent is rising on the Great Lawn of Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. When the tent is finished late this week, it will become a hub for daytime policy chats and nighttime parties during the Republican National Convention with a wall of windows facing the University of Tampa minarets. By the time the tent comes down Sept. 3 – on the cusp of the park's busiest season – the outlook for the Great Lawn isn't good. An optimistic prediction is that tent's air-conditioning will put the grass into a winter-type dormant period.
It could recover quickly from that, said Laurie Trenholm, a professor of environmental horticulture at the University of Florida. Then there's the worst-case scenario. "It will be toast," said Wayne Zurburg, maintenance supervisor for UF's intramural sports program. Zurburg manages 40 acres of turf and says even a day or two under cover can be hard on most grass. City parks officials have their fingers crossed that Trenholm is right. The tent will come down just as the park's busiest period kicks off. Between September and May, the park will see thousands of visitors – everyone from after-work yoga classes to pick-up Frisbee games. Replacing the turf could disrupt those activities while the city waits for the new grass to take root. It'll also cost as much as $40,000, including labor, said Ali Glisson, spokeswoman for Mayor Bob Buckhorn. The event planner, Jamestown Entertainment, which is organizing activities under the party tent, would be responsible for paying for damage to the park, Glisson said. "That having been said, don't underestimate how resilient that lawn can be," she said. Parks Director Greg Bayor said the city's waiting to see what's left of the Great Lawn after the tent comes down. "We will evaluate once we see what we're dealing with and take corrective measures," Bayor said.

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

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