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Volunteer efforts help club to open

After four years of strenuous work, the new Nick Capitano Boys & Girls Club is set for a dedication ceremony today.

By AMY SCHERZER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 14, 2002


DOWNTOWN TAMPA -- The Nick Capitano Boys & Girls Club is so bright and shiny new, you might want to wear sunglasses to the dedication today at noon.

Vibrant lime green and dawn blue walls -- colors chosen by a panel of kids -- perk up a neighborhood that needed a lift.

"It's the first new center we've built in 40 years," said Roy Opfer, president of the Boys & Girls Club of Tampa Bay.

Hear the sigh of relief? It took Opfer four years to open the doors of the $1-million center at 1218 E Kay St. Construction cost $975,000 and the land was valued at $50,000.

"The site was a collection of small parcels with more than 200 tax liens. It took more than a year to clear all the liens," he said.

Beginning Monday morning, youngsters using the nearby Central Park and Robles Park Boys & Girls Clubs will move over to the Capitano Club. The Central Park club will be a teen job center for the summer and then go back to the housing authority. Boys & Girls Clubs will continue to operate the Robles Park site as a teen center.

At 14,700 square feet, the Capitano club is three times the size of the other two combined, Opfer said.

Summer hours are 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays. Weekend hours depend on scheduled activities.

During the school year, nearby St. Peter Claver school will use the club for activities until 2 p.m., when neighborhood kids arrive. Kids can do homework, play basketball, shoot pool or work in the computer lab.

"I'm gonna be dunkin' it," said Derek Shaots, 5, running up and down the length of the gym.

"I like to play Solitaire on the computer," said David Robinson, 10.

From 6:30 p.m. until closing, teens use the club for counseling, leadership training, Smart Moves -- a drug and alcohol prevention program -- and hanging out with friends.

Opfer expects 300 to 400 kids to use the club daily. A staff of 10 will run it.

The club is named in honor of Nick Capitano, 86, president of the Radiant oil company of Tampa, who joined the Boys & Girls Club board in 1956. His son, Joseph Capitano Sr., key fundraiser for the project, tapped ChevronTexaco Corp. for a $300,000 donation. He also formed Central Park Village Youth Services to raise the rest of the money.

Once construction funds were pledged, Opfer turned to the community to design and furnish the building.

RBK Architects donated services valued at $58,000.

Kforce employees came over on weekends to clean, clear and mulch the 10,000-square-foot playground. They also donated playground equipment and picnic tables.

The Tampa Bay Technology Forum installed 10 computers. The Capitano club boasts the first wireless computer lab in a local Boys & Girls Club.

Furniture came from various donors, including Jim Walter Corp. Texaco, Colonial Bank and Freedman Office Furniture, among others

The wood lockers lining the locker room came from the Harbour Island Athletic Club three years ago. They've been in storage until now.

"Nothing was purchased, everything was donated," Opfer said.

Marian Green, formerly director of the Central Park club, now the Capitano program director, marvels at the new facility -- and how it differs from the Central Park club.

"We only had one computer that worked," she said.

-- Reach reporter Amy Scherzer at 226-3332 or scherzer@sptimes.com.

Downtown tampa

WHAT: Nick Capitano Boys & Girls Club Dedication

WHEN: Noon today WHERE: 1218 E. Kay St.

WHAT: Ribbon cutting, tours, refreshments.

INFORMATION: Call 875-5771.

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