St. Pete Times 9/17/08
ST. PETERSBURG — More than six months after City Hall cited itself for neglecting the historic Mirror Lake shuffleboard and lawn bowling complex, city officials say they will spend at least $150,000 to repair and renovate the downtown landmark.
The growing popularity of a free Friday night shuffleboard event ultimately persuaded city leaders to repair the site after years of unsettled debate over what to do with the deteriorating complex, said Clarence Scott, city services administrator.
"Our strategy is to preserve it as it is right now," he said. "We are anxious to move on this and get things done."
In March the complex was cited for five code violations after the neglect of the nearly 90-year-old shuffleboard and lawn bowling center.
The list of violations, discovered by the city in January, include chipping and peeling paint throughout the structure, rotted window frames and siding, excessive rust on the bleachers, large settlement cracks, exposed wires and electrical outlets, and improperly boarded windows.
The city fixed only the electrical system. The other repairs need permission from the city's preservation board, Scott said.
The repairs could cost about $65,000, he said.
Other renovations are also being considered.
Within the next 12 months, the city wants to turn one of two lawn bowling areas into green space, install air conditioning in the complex's clubhouse, repair the shuffleboard courts, install signs detailing the significance of the site and enhance security fencing around the complex, said Scott.
The AC would cost about $82,500, Scott said. His staff is figuring out how much the other improvements would cost, he said.
The Mirror Lake complex, built in 1923, is home to the nation's oldest shuffleboard club.
In May 2007, the city held a public meeting to discuss the site's future. Residents demanded it be fixed, but no action was taken.
As recently as July, city officials said they did not want to pour money into the aging facility and were holding out for a self-sustaining tenant to take over the property.
But the success of St. Pete Shuffle, a weekly event that attracts younger people and families alike, convinced city leaders that the property is still viable, Scott said.
Community activists started the shuffleboard revival event in 2005 to drum up civic support for the complex. St. Pete Shuffle draws about 100 people each Friday night.
"We have been proving week in and week out that this is a valuable place in our community," said event founder Chris Kelly. "Every Friday night that people come out here is a victory. If the buildings get cleaned up as a result, all the better."
Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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