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Wednesday, Sep 17, 2014
Northeast News

Expansion of New Tampa Community Center shelved until 2016

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Published:   |   Updated: July 25, 2013 at 05:57 PM

NEW TAMPA - One year ago, city officials cheerfully spread the word that expansion plans were in the works at the New Tampa Community Center on Commerce Park Boulevard.

Today, the 19,568-square-foot recreation center looks the same.

It is brimming with children participating in a litany of summer programs. Youngsters are buzzing in and out of the complex's lobby and gymnastic and dance training rooms.

But there is no sight of the 14,000-square-foot addition originally scheduled to begin early this year.

On Thursday, it was revealed Mayor Bob Buckhorn's 2014 budget did not include money for the project. According to the mayor's budget report, the New Tampa center's $851,000 expansion has been shelved until 2016.

Residents had mixed reactions to the news.

Former City Council Joseph Caetano said he is not happy about the delay.

"I am not happy with the amount of expenditures in New Tampa," Caetano said. "We are an ATM machine for the administration's wishes."

Caetano said he believes the recreation center is needed.

The former council member has been leading an effort to build a new Tampa fire station on County Line Road on land the city bought in 2008. His pleas have gone unanswered so far.

Brad van Rooyen, a member of the Tampa Palms Open Space and Transportation Community Development District Board of Supervisors and president of the West Meadows and Promenade homeowners associations, said Buckhorn has to make tough decisions on what projects to fund.

"Yes, it is a disappointment, but the mayor is showing leadership," van Rooyen said "He is prioritizing it in the right areas."

The expansion is planned for the side of the recreation center nearest Commerce Park Boulevard and the playground.

Park and recreation department officials are designing the new space to accommodate more gymnastics training, a conference room with audio-video capabilities, restrooms, a training room and storage.

"While it can be argued that the community center is extremely important, he (Buckhorn) is showing signs of good leadership by making tough decisions," van Rooyen said. "I would rather the money go to critical areas like right-of-ways, water services, police and the fire department."

Tough decisions are demanded in a recovering economy, he said.

New Tampa residents now must stay vigilant to make the mayor follow through with his promise to budget the community center expansion in the 2016 budget, van Rooyen added.

The community center opened in May 2008 to mass appeal. The city decided the burgeoning New Tampa area was an ideal spot to expand its popular gymnastics program.

kknight@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7413

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