A new $3.3 million recreation center that will have a gymnasium and several all-purpose rooms should be under construction here by next year.
Hillsborough County officials held a meeting last week seeking input from residents about what amenities they would like included in the new recreation center.
Because of a drop in attendance and tough economic times, the county is turning over daily operation of some of its neighborhood centers to non-profits and instead, staffing regional centers like this one, said Mark Thornton, director of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department.
The new center will be built at the Larry Sanders Progress Village Sports Complex on 78th Street. It will serve Progress Village, Palm River, Clair-Mel City, Magnolia Park and Winston Park.
The center will have a 10,000 square-foot gym and another 5,000 square feet for all-purpose rooms, Thornton said.
“We haven’t closed any centers and we’re not closing any parks,” Thornton told a small group gathered at the Progress Village Park. “But this will be the first time in seven or eight years that we’re planning a new full-service (regional) rec center.”
It will be designed based on community input, Thornton said. “We don’t want it to be a cookie-cutter.”
He and county architect Israel Grajales iterated several times that the county will build as much as it can with available money.
Shirley Griffin, who attends exercise classes at the old Progress Village Park, wondered if there would be room for Zumba classes at the new center. “Our class just keeps getting larger and larger,” she said. “Is it possible to have room at the new center for it?”
“At this point, we have a blank slate,” Thornton said.
Henry Harris, of Progress Village, said he’s not concerned just about the needs of seniors, but also about the needs of the area’s children.
“How much square footage will belong to the children?” he said.
“All of it is for the kids and all of it is for the seniors,” Thornton said. “The two don’t usually conflict,” because seniors will use it more during the day and children will use it after school and on weekends.
Several of those attending suggested the county put in a water park near the new rec center.
Thornton said a fountain play area is going in at Rotary’s All Persons’ Playground in Clayton Park in Brandon, paid for with private funds. He said the county will keep an eye on that project when considering where to put similar projects in the future.
“We don’t do swimming pools in Hillsborough County, but a water park is not out of the question,” Thornton said. However, it would be a separate project and not considered as part of the new recreation center, he said.
The design for the new rec center will take place over the next six to eight months with construction beginning in spring of 2014 and completion 18-24 months later, Thornton said.
Submit public input to Steve Valdez in Citizen Services at firstname.lastname@example.org.