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Tampa Tiger Bay Club discusses the future of Port Tampa Bay, pushing back on calls to redevelop the land

round tables with people sitting and a stage up front with a red backdrop and 3 people sitting at a table speaking into microphones
Sky Lebron
/
WUSF Public Media
The port is expecting 1.2 million cruise ship passengers in 2023, which would set a new record for the port.

Speakers at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club pushed back on the idea that the land the port occupies would be better suited for residential and commercial development.

One of Tampa's most prominent professional clubs held a forum Friday afternoon to discuss the growth and future of Port Tampa Bay.

Speakers at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club pushed back on the idea that the land the port occupies would be better suited for residential and commercial development

Some Tampa City officials, including former Mayor Bob Buckhorn, have pushed back on the port's cruise industry, saying it's limited in the size of ships it can bring in because of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, and that the land occupied by cruise terminals could be better used if it were redeveloped.

But Patrick Allman, who serves as the Secretary and Treasurer for the Governing Board of Port Tampa Bay, said just because the port doesn't bring in the biggest ships doesn't mean the industry isn't strong.

"About half the cruise ships being built right now are smaller cruise ships,” Allman said. “Yes, half are big - great. We don't have the 5,000 cruise ships in Tampa, we don't want them or need them."

Kelly Hendry with the Tampa Bay Maritime Scholarship Foundation was also a speaker at the forum. She said turning the port into housing or other development would eliminate a large chunk of job opportunities.

"It supports thousands of families and to take that away would cause a lot of hardship to that sector of our economy,” Hendry said. “So, I mean, we could turn the industrial part of the port into [residential and commercial development], but it would just really dishonor the legacy and the history."

Hendry also said it would be hard to find a place to import the 2.4 billion gallons of fuel the port sees annually, and the 17 billion dollars in financial impact the port has on the region.

The port is expecting 1.2 million cruise ship passengers in 2023, which would set a new record for the port.

3 people sitting in front of a large sign saying tampa bay tiger club with an american flag on the side, speaking into the microhpone
Sky Lebron
/
WUSF Public Media
Three speakers answered questions at the event - Patrick Allman (left), Kelly Hendry (center), and Colt McCay (right).

Allman said officials with the port are expecting to ramp up their commitment to cruise ships with a plan to open a new cruise terminal that will be unveiled over the next year.

And he said he sees a bright future for the port, with the prospect of new business opportunities popping up continuously.

“What I see in 40 years is all this area that we have that's not developed yet, will all be developed,” Allman said. “We're probably going to be doing two to three times the tonnage we're doing now.”

But all of that growth has to be completed in a smart and effective way, Allman said.

“23 years ago, we opened up a third lane on I-4 in both directions,” Allman said. “And then we said at that point, ‘well, we're never going to need a fourth lane.’ Anybody that's ever tried to go between here and Orlando - I don't care what time you go - it's a mess. We need a fourth lane. We're not making that mistake in the Port. We're planning for the future.”

That could include deepening and widening studies for the port, which could take five to seven years.

“There's an argument you could make that Port [Tampa Bay] property is exempt from property taxes,” Allman said. “If you took the property where the cruise ships are and put condominiums there, you get property taxes, but you'd lose all those jobs. We can't be a service economy where we have nothing but condos, retirees and tourists… You've got to have manufacturing and high end jobs.”

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