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YMCA moving forward on Brooksville branch

Officials say new subdivisions in east Hernando will support a second facility and will ask developers to donate land.

By DAN DeWITT
Published May 22, 2003

BROOKSVILLE - The Hernando County Family YMCA has wanted to build a branch in or near Brooksville for several years.

Now, it has firm plans to do so.

"We just have to raise the money," said executive director Sue Ball. "I think it's going to take two or three years."

Even before it begins raising funds, the YMCA must acquire property, Ball said. Board members intend to approach the developers of two new subdivisions - Hernando Oaks and Southern Hills Plantation, on U.S. 41 south of the city - to ask them to donate a site.

"We think that the (U.S. 41) corridor would be a good location," said Sheriff Richard Nugent, a YMCA board member.

The facility would not just generate goodwill in the community, Ball said, it could help attract home buyers. The current YMCA location on Mariner Boulevard in Spring Hill, which was donated by Seven Hills developer James Gills, "really did help develop Seven Hills," Ball said.

"Obviously, for a developer, that's a nice selling point - to say you're going to have a YMCA right there," Nugent said.

The plans call for a Brooksville facility similar to the existing one in Spring Hill - or, more precisely, similar to the one in Spring Hill once its ongoing expansion is finished. It will include a swimming pool, fitness center, children's gymnasium and a teen recreation center, Ball said. The estimated cost of the Brooksville YMCA is $3.5-million, she said.

Construction would probably not begin until other work at the Seven Hills facility is finished. The work includes a gymnasium and a children's aquatic center. The cost of the work, which is in addition to the current expansion, will be about $1.5-million, Ball said.

James Harvey, regional manager for LandMar Group LLC, the developer of Southern Hills, said the company might be interested in the YMCA's proposal.

But he also said it planned to build at least one of its own fitness facilities in the 999-home development. Also, he said, LandMar has not donated land for a YMCA in the several other subdivisions it has developed in Florida.

"It's not something we've considered," Harvey said of allowing a YMCA to be built at Southern Hills.

Whether or not the land is donated, the time has come to build a YMCA in Brooksville, Ball said.

Previous plans called for a cooperative effort between the YMCA and the city of Brooksville to build a swimming pool near the Jerome Brown Community Center.

The objection has always been a lack of people on the east side of the county to support a YMCA.

"The rooftops just haven't been there," Ball said.

With Southern Hills, Hernando Oaks, which has begun selling houses, and Majestic Oaks, a 650-home subdivision planned just east of Brooksville, that will not be a problem for long, Ball and Nugent said.

"I think there are people who would support a Brooksville facility," Ball said.

- Dan DeWitt can be reached at 754-6116 or dewitt@sptimes.com

[Last modified May 22, 2003, 01:30:54]


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