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Tuesday, Aug 19, 2014
Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: It’s time to let go of the Bro Bowl

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If the city planned to pave over the Bro Bowl and put up condos, I might argue to save it.

If the intent was to ignore the significance of that iconic skateboard park near downtown Tampa in the name of progress, we would have to put up a stop sign and demand leaders show more respect.

The city is doing none of that, though.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn has a bigger vision in mind. He is pushing plans for a $6 million renovation of Perry Harvey Sr. Park that includes, controversially, replacing the current Bro Bowl with a larger one in another part of the park.

Opponents think so little of that, they managed to get the bowl placed on the National Register of Historic Places this week. They are likely to be disappointed, since Buckhorn usually gets what he wants.

Take a deep breath.

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The park, which included the skateboard bowl, was built following riots in 1967 after Tampa police shot 19-year-old Martin Chambers.

I’m sure the skateboarders can tell stories of the great times they had there. Well, great times can be had in lots of places — forgive the fond trip down memory lane to my 1964 Chevy.

A website dedicated to saving the Bro Bowl declares it to be “a world-famous structure that merits preservation for its historical, cultural and architectural significance.”

No disrespect intended, but we’re not talking about tearing down Wrigley Field or Fenway Park.

A short history lesson is in order.

Then along came Mayor Build-It, supporting an ambitious plan to renovate the park with a tribute to other significant contributions to the neighborhood. That includes a history walk to celebrate the area’s important place in our community.

Visitors might learn that in 1935, Perry Harvey Sr. started the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1402 in Tampa. That provided minorities of that era a rare chance at well-paying jobs. They might learn that he later became a statewide leader in the civil rights movement, or that his son, Perry Harvey Jr., became Tampa’s first black city council member.

Or, visitors could just enjoy the new, larger skateboard bowl.

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I understand the concerns of those who say the city has a history of paving over culture at the expense of neighborhoods. One person’s “progress” is another person’s “destruction.”

Construction on Interstate 4 cut Ybor City in half, and the area hasn’t fully recovered. We even see it now with the widening of Interstate 275 coming almost up to the front yards of residents near West Tampa.

Replacing the Bro Bowl is nothing like that, though.

The new park will be better. Bro Bowl II will serve more skateboarders. So we’re at the point where the city needs to tell those who object to the plans that their complaints have been noted, considered and rejected.

Then it needs to go full speed ahead with the renovation that will breathe new life into the Central Avenue district in sensitive and meaningful ways. Time marches on.

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