Plan commission backs large I-75 sign for Ellenton ice complex

MANATEE — The Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex isn’t as big as Tropicana Field, but it soon could get a sign that rivals the one for the Tampa Bay Rays’ 1.1 million-square-foot home stadium.

Despite some misgivings about its size, a divided Manatee County Planning Commission on Thursday endorsed a replacement sign for the 115,000-square-foot skating rink near the Interstate 75/U.S. 301 interchange. At 71 feet tall and with an electronic message area of 880 square feet, it would be comparable to the Tropicana Field sign along Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg. It also would have a smaller, 224-square-foot sign displaying the complex’s logo.

That combination would be more than 200 square feet larger than the typical billboard, making it among the largest signs along I-75 in Manatee.

That concerned county planners, who said the sign’s message area — where various text messages and images are displayed — should be capped at 400 square feet. Some board members agreed.

“When you get over 400 square feet, that’s enormous,” said Marilyn Stasica, who voted against the larger sign.

So did Timothy Rhoades, who said he feared it could lead to a proliferation of requests for ever-larger signs along the I-75 corridor.The other five board members voted for the larger sign, citing the sports complex’s economic impact and the sign’s potential use for Amber Alerts and other public safety messages. “What a great place to say something,” said David Wick, referring to the sign’s highly visible location.

But he and others also suggested the sports complex consider reducing the proposed sign’s size before seeking county commissioners’ final approval in June.