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Teams find a common ground at new gym

The fierce competition remains, but owners hope the facility will spur a friendlier atmosphere among players, parents.

By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 29, 2002

Tampa Bay Youth Football League rivalries can get intense, especially between South Tampa's long-established Seahawks and Raiders. But youth league parents Scarlett Holland and Rick Schulz noticed that things had gotten a little out of hand.

"Unfortunately, sometimes the kids get a little out of control," said Holland.

"It's like Florida and Florida State," Schulz said.

Though no specific clashes have been reported, it gets icy in the stands between the teams' families, Schulz said.

So they, along with four other youth league parents and officials, have decided to create a facility where both teams can practice together, fostering a spirit of fellowship that may carry into the stands.

They figured they might as well add gymnastics, weight training, tae kwon do, dance, wrestling, triathlete training, a nursery and tanning facilities.

Hence, a 23,000-square-foot warehouse has been converted into South Tampa Athletic Recreational Sports, or STARS Gym -- slated for opening April 13.

The gym is located at 5400 S Westshore Blvd., a quarter mile south of Gandy Boulevard.

Holland said the unhealthy competitive spirit in the youth league spread beyond the football players, adding that cheerleaders "were threatened to be kicked off the team because they showed their routine to members of the opposite team at school."

So the Seahawks cheerleading coach has arranged for the gym to offer comprehensive cheerleading programs, including elite, a high energy combination of dance and cheerleading that is growing in popularity and garnering coverage on ESPN.

"The neat thing is now these two teams are in there practicing together, and supporting each other," Holland said.

Who would have thought Raiders and Seahawks could practice together? That's the question Schulz keeps hearing from parents.

And in the spirit of competition, Holland hopes STARS will compete with the YMCA by encouraging parents to stay on site with children.

"The point," said Holland, mother of three, "is when the parents come in, there's something for them to do."

Membership is $50 a month for families, $25 for individuals, and $7 for daily visits. Holland estimated that she, Schulz, and fellow co-owners Kris Fernandez, Joe and Teresa Pietro, and Lori Moses have spent over $100,000 on STARS.

By the grand opening, she expects to have hired a staff of 15-20 trainers and instructors.

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