Gulf Coast Week
City budget proposed
Water pipe repairs, a new downtown art museum and widening Bruce B. Downs Boulevard are among the items in the city budget proposed by Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio.
Major items in the budget include:
• $19.1 million for the new Tampa Museum of Art
• $5 million to widen parts of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in New Tampa
• Millions of dollars in water, wastewater and stormwater projects, and the redevelopment of Plant Park at the University of Tampa.
The Tampa City Council has set two 5 p.m. public hearings on the budget Sept. 10 and Sept. 24 at City Hall.
History center grant
One of the Gulf Coast's emerging attractions, the Tampa Bay History Center, recently received a $1 million grant from the Kresge Foundation, but it must continue its fundraising to meet a deadline for the grant.
The center, being built in downtown Tampa, is scheduled to open in December with 30,000 artifacts including many antique Florida maps.
Kresge awards challenge grants for construction and acquisition or renovation of existing sites. The center must raise the remaining $6 million of its $32 million goal before April 1 to receive the grant.
Hillsborough County has already committed $17 million and Tampa has donated the 2.4-acre waterfront site.
Alligator Alley lessors
Six companies are vying to lease Alligator Alley, the 78-mile toll stretch of Interstate 75 that crosses the Everglades from Collier to Broward counties.
The Florida Department of Transportation has asked six companies to submit formal proposals for leasing the four-lane road. They include A2 Transportation Partners, The Alligator Alley Development Partners, Atlantia S.p.A., Everglades Parkway Partners, GVI-Lehman Alligator Alley Access Partners and Vinci Concessions.
The six companies have until Dec. 15 to submit answers to the request for proposals.
Fort Myers airport traffic drops
Passenger traffic at Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers fell 6.1% to 503,000 in July compared with the same month last year.
For the year to date, passenger traffic at the airport has fallen 4.8% over the same period last year, as airlines cut the number of flights because of the high price of fuel.
In July, Delta carried the most passengers to and from Fort Myers with 67,677 people. The other top carriers were JetBlue (59,291 passengers), AirTran (58,647), Southwest (55,967) and US Airways (54,170).
Naples visitor count rises
The number of visitors staying at hotels in the Naples area rose 3.5% to 110,700 in June compared with the same month last year, according to Research Data Services.
About half of the visitors to the Naples area came from Florida. The number of instate visitors rose 2.6% to 55,903 and Midwest visitors rose 7.2%, offsetting a 10.1% drop in visitors from the northeast and a 5.8% decline from the Southeast.
The biggest jump in visitors came from Canada (65%) and Europe (21%). Tourism officials prize foreign visitors because they stay longer and spend more money than domestic tourists.
Occupancies at Naples area hotels declined 2.4 percentage points in June to 63.6%, average daily room rates rose 2% to $139.90 and revenue per available room declined 1.8% to $89.
Local company expands
L-3 Aviation Recorders, one of the world's largest manufacturers of airplane cockpit voice and flight data recording systems known as black boxes, has committed to remain in Sarasota for at least another decade.
The company also said it plans to renovate and add 35,000 square feet of space to its 100,000-square-foot facility on Fruitville and Cattleman roads in Sarasota, a few miles west of Interstate 75.
The company makes about 70% of the black boxes on the market, as well as 80% of the world's marine data recorders.
"We look forward to continuing our operations in Sarasota," L-3 Aviation Recorders President Bruce Coffey said in a statement. The company, which said it was looking into some potential relocation sites outside the Sarasota area, signed a 10-year lease with Burton Katzman Development Co., the building's owners.
The company, a division of publicly traded New York-based L-3 Communications, has been operating in the area since the 1950s and has about 250 employees in Sarasota.
Red Sox stadium advances
Sarasota County commissioners recently approved a nearly $5 million price for land adjacent to a downtown park that could be used to build a Spring training stadium for the Boston Red Sox.
The 4-0 vote at the commissioners' Aug. 26 meeting was a small step in the ongoing process that several commissioners hope will end in wooing the Red Sox away from Fort Myers to relocate its spring training home to Sarasota.
The commissioners agreed to a $4.8 million price for 1.2 acres next to Payne Park, which is near several federal and county government buildings. The deal is part of an agreement the county previously reached with Sarasota city officials to jointly buy the property.
If the land purchase closes, which could happen as soon as next month, city and county commissioners will move ahead with the plan to lure the Red Sox. The next step would be to come up with a funding plan to build the stadium, which could cost up to $60 million.
Soccer moves forward
The effort to bring back the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team took another step forward recently as an investment group filed documents to rezone land so they can build a 5,000-seat soccer stadium in Town n' Country, a northwest suburb of Tampa.
The site is between the Veterans Expressway and Benjamin Road, south of Waters Avenue.
Investors, including Tampa's David Laxer, owner of Bern's Steakhouse, want to rezone 15.7 acres for the stadium and an adjoining retail complex, according to a zoning application filed with Hillsborough County. The investors plan to expand the stadium to nearly 10,000 seats.