YMCA plan heads to County Commission Aug. 7
The location for the proposed facility is a 40-acre area adjacent to the Vance Vogel Park in Gibsonton.
BY PENNY FLETCHER
Attendance was sparse at a public meeting July 22 as representatives from Hillsborough County and officials from the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA gathered comments on a plan before taking it to County Commissioners Aug, 7.
Two other public meetings have been held in South County beginning in January 2012 to discuss placement of a new YMCA near Big Bend Road.
There was a lot of comment at the hour-long meeting, mostly positive, although a few objections to the location and the idea of a 30-year free lease of 40 acres of county land were voiced.
Plans for the proposed three-phase project were outlined by Tom Looby, CEO of the YMCA and Kurt Gremley, Steve Valdez and Shorty Robbins, representing Hillsborough County.
“This is a public-private project like we have with the Y in Town n’ Country,” said Robbins, who is a spokeswoman for Parks, Recreation and Conservation. “We don’t want to be duplicating services anywhere in the county. It doesn’t make sense.”
Robbins explained that the county’s recreation centers provided many of the same services as the Y but a big advantage to the Y is swimming, swimming lessons and water safety.
“Hillsborough County has the most drowning deaths of any county in the country for children under 4,” said Gremley. “We need to provide as much water safety education as possible any way we can.”
The location for the proposed facility is a 40-acre area adjacent to the Vance Vogel Park in Gibsonton; it would eventually employ 125 people, many of them teenagers getting their first job.
“The Y is known for giving kids their first job and teaching them to get up and go to work and love it,” said Jennifer Murphy, who has been a volunteer with the Y since 1998 and on the board. “It is the largest employer of teens in Hillsborough County.”
If passed by the Commission, the first phase would consist of three athletic fields; a single-court covered open gym; a pavilion with restrooms, storage and concessions; a playground; site grading, utilities, drainage; parking; permits; and design; all at a cost of about $3.5 million.
Of that, $2 mil would be provided by the county and $1.5 mil by the Y and the land lease would be free.
This phase should be completed by April 2015.
Next would come two multi-purpose athletic fields and a second “air-nasium” court (open gym) at a cost of about $400,000 of YMCA funds, to be completed by April 2016.
Last would be an aquatics center, a starter multi-purpose family facility followed by an expanded facility as funds allow. The estimated cost of this is about $5 mil of Y funds to be completed in 2016 or 2017, based on what funds are available.
“The Advisory Board should be under way by December 2013 and eventually we should have a 12-member Leadership Council,” Looby said.
Paul Burke is an educator who works at Eisenhower Middle School. “The Y has a Teen Achievers Program that came in and helped us with kids in dropout prevention and really turned them around,” Burke said.
Woodrow Wadsworth made the comment that “There is no greater investment a community can make than in its children, and the YMCA has always been about kids.”
Rick Hancock thought having a full-service YMCA in the area could hurt small businesses that offer the same services, like after-school programs (dance, karate, martial arts, arts and more).
Mary Beth Sultenfuss, owner of the Apollo Beach Racquet and Fitness Club objected to the county removing what she described as “prime real estate” off the tax rolls and supplying money to the Y to begin the project.
But the major objection was location, as some in the audience said Wimauma and Ruskin were areas that needed such a facility because the Riverview developments closest to the proposed location had large community centers that were lacking in the more rural areas.
Alan Witt, president of Hillsborough Community College’s South Shore campus, said when HCC was first planned, people also objected to its location.
“They said we wouldn’t have 400 students where we are,” Witt said. “But we started with 1,600 and now we have more than 6,000.”
The consensus of the small crowd — of probably about 80 — was that if “you build it, they will come.”