TARPON SPRINGS – The towering statue of Poseidon was supposed to be sitting between a pair of trees at the Tarpon Springs City Marina by now, beckoning visitors to enter the historic Sponge Docks and pose for social-media ready photos in front of the eye-catching original sculpture.
But a disagreement between city officials and Terry Tsafatinos, the Clearwater real estate investor and philanthropist who decided to donate the piece in 2017, over where to place the installation has apparently sunk the deal.
Tsafatinos exited City Hall in a huff Oct. 22 after the City Commission failed to agree on where to place the installation.
Due to an expanded base design featuring a mural-filled backing wall the 3-D artwork had outgrown its previous location.
“I’m pulling my donation,” a visibly agitated Tsafatinos said before he and his architect left the building. “They don’t deserve it.”
Tsafatinos’ anger stemmed from his desire to see the statue, which he commissioned from a renowned Greek sculptor and which he paid for in its entirety, including shipping it from Kalymnos, Greece, displayed with what he considered a proper background.
According to the architectural renderings of the installation, the 10-foot-8-inch Greek God of the Sea would sit atop a 5-foot-high base for a total elevation of 15 feet 4 inches. The approximately 30-by-30-foot base area would contain a pool, landscaping, a space for a dedication plaque and a backing wall local artists could be called on to fill with complementary scenes of water, mermaids and marine life.
In a letter he sent to the city in late September, Tsafatinos stated, “Without the wall, the neighboring restaurant negatively distracts the view and the aesthetic of the statue.”
He added, “If the wall is not included in this design, I will no longer invest in this project.”
Adding the wall and massive base, however, would mean the installation would have to be moved to the marina parking lot, forcing the elimination of one turn lane and two parking spots, something the commissioners wouldn’t endorse.
“It’s nice that the man wants to donate something. I can appreciate that,” Commissioner Townsend Tarapani said. However, the project was approved before his election to the commission in March, he noted.
“But I think altering our landscape of the city marina facility for something that somebody wants to donate to us is maybe putting the cart before the horse a little bit,” Tarapani said. “It would be great in the right location, but I don’t think that’s the spot. It would be too big.”
Commissioners Rea Sieber and Jacob Karr agreed with Tarapani.
“The original location is the one I preferred,” Sieber said. The new spot “is in the middle of the parking lot and could be run into” despite protective bollards surrounding it, she said.
“This is like the first thing you see coming into the Sponge Docks and I don’t think it fits the character and the history of the Sponge Docks,” Karr said.
Tarapani suggested looking into alternative locations for the piece.
“Does it have to be at the Sponge Docks?” he asked, noting the city has plenty of waterfront area where the Greek God of the Sea would feel at home. “Because I won’t support it unless we find another location.”
At that point, Tsafatinos had heard enough.
“I believe they made the decision tonight,” he said when asked if his written promise to go through with the donation was still on. “I never thought they’d be so negative. These people are not experts. They need new jobs.”
In a later interview, Mayor Chris Alahouzos, a longtime friend of Tsafatinos, said he hopes compromise that would salvage the agreement could be reached.
“I’ve known him for a long time, he’s a nice person, very generous,” Alahouzos said of Tsafatinos. “So, I am a little disappointed this issue came to the state it’s in now.”
The city’s Public Art Committee and the City Commission had approved the statue agreement and Tsafatinos has paid a lot of money to design, build and ship this statue, Alahouzos said, “and now we can’t come to an agreement of where to put it?”
Alahouzos admitted the changes to the base’s design had greatly altered the project but said he believes in the old adage of not looking a gift horse in the mouth.
“I know the base is kind of big for the area, but we should not treat him that way,” he said. “It’s a gift and we should go back to him and see if we can compromise, maybe go back to the original place with a smaller base and see if we can make it work. We’ll have to see what happens.”