GIBSONTON — Hillsborough County commissioners approved a lease agreement with the Tampa Metropolitan YMCA on Wednesday that would bring athletic fields, an aquatics center and other family-friendly facilities to the Gibsonton area.
The $8.5 million facility will be built on 40 acres of county-owned land adjacent to and south of Vance Vogel Park. The county will lease the land to the YMCA for 30 years at no charge and pay $2 million to fund part of the first phase of the project, which will include multi-purpose athletic fields, a single-court covered airnasium, a playground and parking lot.
“South County is an under served part of our community,” said County Commissioner Ken Hagan. “This partnership will dramatically improve the quality of life for so many.” The YMCA will pay the remaining $1.5 million for the first phase and about $5 million for subsequent phases, which will add more fields, another airnasium, the aquatics center and a multi-purpose family building.
Tom Looby, CEO of the Tampa Metro YMCA, listed the benefits of the public-private partnership and the organization’s responsibility after the first phase is complete.
“The Y becomes 100 percent responsible for operating costs, so there’s no burden on the county,” Looby said.
But some business owners who offer competing services worried that the YMCA is being given an unfair advantage.
“It truly disturbs me that so many people don’t seem to know the county is giving this valuable land away,” said Mary Beth Sultenfuss, owner of Apollo Beach Racquet and Fitness Club. “I’d love to go up and ask them, ‘If you knew your tax dollars were being used this way, would you be in favor of it?’
“It’s pretty sad, and our commissioners are so out of touch,” Sultenfuss said. “South County does need something like this, but not in that location.”
Commissioner Sandy Murman praised the project, citing the county’s other partnerships with the YMCA.
“I haven’t seen the evidence at all where the other Y’s that we have partnerships with have hurt anything in those areas,” Murman said. Along with the South County YMCA, the county and Tampa Metro YMCA have teamed up on four public-private partnerships, including a full service facility on Waters Avenue, two pools, and a teen center.
“In fact, it’s enhanced participation,” Murman said.
Hillsborough County has already budgeted $500,000 a year for the past two years towards the project, and it has $500,000 a year for the next two years in the capital improvement program, according to the county’s website.
The first phase of the project is expected to be finished in 2015 with the final phase completed by 2017.
“I look forward to this being a welcome addition to South County,” Murman said.