GIBSONTON — After years of waiting, South Shore residents will finally get the new YMCA they asked for, thanks to a unanimous vote of approval by Hillsborough County commissioners on Aug. 7. The vote authorized a lease agreement between the county and the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA for the construction of a new family facility on county-owned land next to Vance Vogel Park on Old Big Bend Road.
“The people of South County deserve this,” said Commissioner Sandy Murman. “This new YMCA will guarantee that no child will be turned away for an inability to pay for programs. The Y gives back to the community.”
Murman, who spearheaded the project and brought it before the commission two years ago, said the new YMCA will be a welcome addition to southern Hillsborough County.
“In addition to benefitting South Shore’s children, this will produce jobs,” she said. “That whole area around I-75 and Big Bend Road is going to be designated an economic development area with all kinds of tax incentives for growth and expansion.”
“We’re making things happen for them now,” she continued. “I couldn’t be happier.”
As part of the public-private joint-use lease agreement, Hillsborough County will provide $2 million toward phase one of the project, which includes three multipurpose fields, a playground, picnic pavilion, a covered basketball court, parking and drainage improvements. The Tampa YMCA is responsible for the remaining $1.5 million needed to complete phase one, which is anticipated to be completed by April 2015.
Construction and groundbreaking are expected in late fall.
The Tampa Y is responsible for the cost and construction of phase two, which includes an aquatics center, and phase three, the main facility and additional parking.
The total estimated cost is $8.5 million and, depending on capital fundraising efforts, it is expected to be complete in the next three to five years.
“This is our first new facility in 10 years,” said Cindy Sofarelli, senior group vice president of the Tampa YMCA. “We’re especially excited because folks in the community are excited about it.”
Sofarelli said the new Y will be a “safe place to provide much-needed services to an underserved part of the county. As a not-for-profit charity our mission is to serve and positively impact people’s lives by offering youth development and healthy living programs and being socially responsible.”
She said the Y’s services build character and confidence in children, enable families to spend quality time together and provide a supportive environment for people of all ages, incomes and backgrounds.
There were some business owners in the area who objected to the site, but Sofarelli said she felt those objections would be overcome in time.
“There are plenty of services to go around and plenty of people to serve,” she said. “Traditionally the Y has partnered with hospitals, schools and businesses to meet the community’s needs.”
A survey of 700 people commissioned by the YMCA in 2010 found broad support for building a Y in South Shore. Their top priorities included an aquatics center, health and wellness activities, youth programs and convenience, Sofarelli said.
For more information about the county’s role in this project, call Kurt Gremley at (813) 272-5810 or (813) 307-1007. For more information about the YMCA’s role, contact Lalita Llerena at (813) 224-9622, ext. 240, or Lalita.Llerena@tampaymca.org.