St. Petersburg Times
Brandon Times
Print story Reuse or republish Subscribe to the Times

Community Report: Brandon

Troubled park scores better fields

Heather Lakes Park has new lights and is getting a pedestrian walkway and additional parking. The upgrades may stem the trouble with teens there.

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 25, 2003

Updated May 12, 2003

An $85,000 makeover at Heather Lakes Park is almost finished, and will give the next Pele and Mia Hamm a safe, well-lit place to hone their skills.

County officials hope the investment puts an end to the drugs and gang-related graffiti that teenagers have brought to the park in recent years.

A Valrico father, with roots in the soccer fields of Brazil, hopes the improved facilities attract more youngsters to the soccer league he formed in 1999.

"I always thought this could be developed into a great soccer facility," said 42-year-old Romildo Sanches, founder and president of The Players Club of Tampa Bay.

"The location is great: we are five minutes from the mall, right across from Lowe's and lots of restaurants. Parents can drop their kids off and go shopping while we practice."

By next month, Heather Lakes Park will have two standard-size, irrigated soccer fields and a smaller field for the youngest players.

The large fields, near Providence and Lumsden roads, will be surrounded by a 6-foot fence. Already, they are illuminated by six bright new lights attached to 72-foot concrete poles.

Tampa Electric Co. installed the lights in November after getting the parts from General Electric, said John Brill, spokesman for the county parks and recreation department.

"Thanks to TECO, we got about $75,000 worth of lighting for $50,000," Brill said.

The 20.5-acre park also is getting a pedestrian walkway and additional parking.

Sanches left pro soccer in his native Brazil in 1986, to play in Rhode Island with a semi-pro U.S. league, the Luso American Soccer Association. He and his family moved to Valrico in 1994, and by 1999