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(Carl Cronan is editor of Real Estate Florida.)

TAMPA, FL-The Seminole Tribe of Florida has raised the stakes in its gambling pact with the state government, unveiling plans to build a hotel at its local site that is four times larger than the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino standing there now. The proposed hotel, with up to 22 stories and 1,000 rooms, would tower above Interstate 4 on the city’s east side.

Tribal leaders advanced their development plans prior to this year’s session of the Florida Legislature, which must consider a deal made last year with Gov. Charlie Crist that has since been opposed by Attorney General Bill McCollum and the state Supreme Court. Some lawmakers are already calling the Tampa hotel expansion an elaborate form of lobbying.

In addition to the new hotel, which would become Tampa’s largest, the $800-million project would include 50,000 square feet of meeting space and a parking garage with space for 6,000 vehicles. It would also feature a music hall with 1,500 to 2,000 seats, rivaling Orlando’s Hard Rock Cafe.

Seminole Hard Rock has been heavily marketing its new “Vegas style” card games in the Tampa market, particularly the addition of blackjack, that were the result of the tribe’s deal with Crist that promises to pay the state at least $100 million annually. Other expansion plans at Seminole gaming sites in South Florida also hinge on legislative approval.

Further expansion of the Seminole Hard Rock would potentially boost land values and development potential within a one-mile radius, say local commercial real estate brokers. Currently, the Florida State Fairgrounds and Ford Amphitheatre are the hotel’s largest neighbors.

“It creates a new entertainment magnet to be added to what has already been created with Ybor City and what we have throughout Downtown Tampa,” Mark Cooney, executive director of land services GVA Advantis, tells GlobeSt.com. He points out that the Seminole Hard Rock represents one end of a hospitality corridor that runs from I-4 on the east to Tampa International Airport on the west.

Tampa currently has approximately 21,000 hotel rooms, according to Smith Travel Research. The city’s hotel capacity has grown substantially in recent years leading up to Super Bowl XLIII on Feb. 1.

Earlier this week, Seminole officials said their proposed projects could put $288 million in state coffers and create 45,000 jobs at a time of budget and job cuts. The tribe is already holding a total of $75 million in escrow for the state while the gambling pact continues to be sorted out in Tallahassee.

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