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$2.2 mil expansion planned for Ruskin Recreation Center

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image An aerial view of the Ruskin Recreation Center shows its boundaries in red. The new facility will be located behind the existing building.

The design phase should take approximately four months, including permitting, and then there should be about eight months for construction.

BY PENNY FLETCHER

A light turn-out at a public meeting at the Ruskin Recreation Center April 4 didn’t take away from the message. The Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department unveiled a preliminary proposed plan to spend $2.2 mil. on a new freestanding gymnasium and other facilities at that park.

The park, which is located at 901 Sixth St., S.E., one block southwest of the railroad crossing on State Road 674 (College Avenue), currently houses a large multi-purpose room which doubles as a gymnasium and a senior’s center. Plans to build a large third building there were revealed, with initial site drawings, by Parks and Recreation Director Mark Thornton and Craig Clements, who is a senior architect with Hillsborough County’s Facilities Management Division.

“There won’t be any disruption of services here while the construction is going on,” said Thornton. “The new building will be freestanding, although it will be tucked close to the existing buildings to give the park a campus-like feel, and also allow maximum use of outside space.”

The plan is still so new that neither site specifications nor exact floor-space are known, Thornton said.

“This is because whatever money is left over from doing the initial site work will be spent on the building. We will use it all,” he said.

The money to build this facility and several others around the county was gained from the consolidation of the county’s 43 smaller recreation centers into 12 expanded neighborhood centers that began four years ago, Thornton said. This money was kept in the parks and rec budget and approved for use by the County Commission.

“In 2012, County Commissioners approved five new projects, including this one, Palm River, Town n’ Country, Progress Village and Gardenville.”

Plans for expansion at the Gardenville Recreation Center in Gibsonton will be released soon and covered in a separate news story.

Ruskin’s construction budget is $1.8 mil. and anything left over from that will be added to what is spent on the building, or on facilities available in the building, Thornton said.

The park is on approximately four acres of land, which means every square foot of space must be considered, he continued.

Rick Ward, a 15-year-volunteer at the Ruskin park questioned how the softball field and playground would be affected.

“We know we need at least 300 feet from home plate to the wall for adult softball to continue,” Thornton said. “So we have considered that in the drawings.”

As of April 4 the exact placement of the new building was still in flux but a new positioning, finally decided upon the morning of April 5, was emailed to accompany this story.

“The plans are still so preliminary we can’t give any exact specifications or target dates,” Thornton said. But the spending limits are clearly defined by the County Commissioners’ vote.

Only one tree will need to be removed, Clements said. “It was important to us to minimize tree take-down.”

“Any dollars left over from site and construction costs will be put into a larger and better building. More storage space can always be used. Every program needs storage space,” Thornton said. “Moving the playground is relatively easy. It is about at the end of its life anyway.”

The design phase should take approximately four months, including permitting, and then there should be about eight months for construction, Thornton said.

“This would put groundbreaking in the late fall,” he added. “After that we are imagining about a 12-month construction window.”

The park has after-school programs, outdoor basketball, field softball, a fitness room, programs for teens, toddlers, and senior citizens, and summer camps.

Right now, a seven-to-nine person volunteer committee is needed to help guide the community’s wishes.

“We want to be responsive to the community’s wishes right down to the colors we use,” Thornton said.

To become a member of that committee, residents may contact the park at (813) 672-7881.

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