Tampa-based television pitchman Anthony Sullivan has a new passion: the Lens, the proposed replacement for St. Petersburg's downtown Pier.
"I think with the infinity loop here and the shape of the infinity, I think it's an experience that once this goes up and you go for a walk on this, I think you'll be blown away," Sullivan said Friday, pointing at details in a model of the Lens at the St. Petersburg Museum of History.
In a matter of minutes, the pitch man was in full swing.
"Can you shop? Yes. Can you stop and use the restroom? Yes. Can you buy an ice cream, can you fish, can you ponder, can you propose to somebody, can you take your dog for a walk, can you go for a run, can you do yoga?" he asked rhetorically. "I think you're going to be able to do everything you can do on the existing pier, but even more and in an environment that will put St. Petersburg, I think, on the global stage, I really do."
Sullivan said he is offering his services at no charge, claiming the prospect of a new Pier was one of his motivations for moving from Tampa to St. Petersburg two years ago. That was before the Lens was selected in an international design competition.
But something he saw this weekend struck him.
"I was driving past the St. Pete Saturday market and I saw a bunch of people with red T-shirts on holding signs up -- stop this, stop stop -- and I just thought ‘no, I don't want to stop,' " Sullivan said.
He was referring to a current petition drive to "Stop the Lens," launched by a group of businessmen who do not like the Lens design and do not believe it can be built for the amount of money the city has available. Some of its members have been very vocal on a Facebook page Sullivan set up Sunday, although Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg chairman Fred Whaley is tolerant of Sullivan's efforts.
"I think it's fine because it puts it out in the public more and people can have their opinion," he told FOX 13 News.
The pitch man said he is willing to help the city make Lens presentations at public forums.
"I don't think the city has done a great job of marketing it, and I think that's why I've decided to jump in," Sullivan said.
Mayor Bill Foster agreed the city's pitch has been lackluster. We asked him, how do you leverage a volunteer like Sullivan?
"I think you get out of the way. I mean, he's got his own resources, he's got his own ideas, you don't try to corral him, you just get out of the way," Foster said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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