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Gym will broaden horizons of play

A 10,000-square-foot gym next to the Jackson Springs Recreation Center is nearly finished. It's opening at the end of this month.

By JACKIE RIPLEY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 9, 2002


TOWN 'N COUNTRY -- Jovanna York can hardly wait for workers to put the finishing touches on the new gymnasium at Jackson Springs Park.

The 14-year-old, a member of the Town 'N Country Boys & Girls Club and basketball aficionada, is looking forward to long practice sessions and intramural tournaments.

"It'll be air-conditioned," said Jovanna who plays basketball at Orange Grove Middle School, and any place else she can find a court.

York is one of about 300 children who will get to enjoy the 10,000-square-foot gym being built on county property adjacent to the Jackson Springs Recreation Center. It will include a basketball/volleyball court, weight room and offices. Set to open at the end of this month, the $1.4-million project is a joint effort by Hillsborough County, The Boys & Girls Club and the YMCA.

"The Boys & Girls Club has operated out of the county's recreation center at Jackson Springs for years and years," said Lois Kessler, Hillsborough County recreation department section manager. "But what's exciting is that we're getting a gym built."

The Boys & Girls Club will use the gym for its after-school program as well as some nighttime activities, Kessler said.

The YMCA is opening a 21,000-square-foot facility on Waters Avenue west of Sheldon Road this summer. The $4-million YMCA will include a gym, aerobics area, youth activity area for after-school care, nursery, a climbing wall and outdoor swimming pool. It will serve residents of Citrus Park, Countryway, Town 'N County and Westchase.

Kessler said the gym at Jackson Springs is a special perk for Town 'N County residents, disappointed over the YMCA's decision to build closer to Westchase than to their neighborhood.

It was as if Town 'N Country "was not getting anything," Kessler said, so "some money was set aside to build a gym for Jackson Springs."

The YMCA sold bonds to pay for the gym, with the understanding that Hillsborough County would repay the money.

"It's novel in that it's being built by the YMCA and the county is paying back at $200,000 a year," said Joel Jackson, section manager of the Parks and Recreation department's construction division.

Jackson said the county has already repaid $600,000.

The gym, which will also have additional parking, will be open to the public in the evening, will be staffed by both county and Boys & Girls Club employees, Kessler said.

County facilities are free and open to the public. Kessler said the county is considering charging a fee of about $5 a month to help maintain the equipment.

"It's giving us a bigger area to work and play in," said Stan Krick, one of Town 'N Country's first residents. "It's taken time, but I feel like we've got more good things coming along."

-- Jackie Ripley can be reached at (813) 269-5308 or ripley@sptimes.com.

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