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Riverfront Park ought to give club good home

Published April 27, 2004

A solution is in sight for the West Tampa Boys & Girls Club controversy.

The club, on MacDill Avenue south of Interstate 275, is slated for demolition to make way for a wider interstate. The initial plan was to rebuild at the site of the Guida House in MacFarlane Park, but that met with resistance. Preservationists wanted to renovate the Guida House. Neighbors didn't want another building in MacFarlane.

The issue grew contentious, with subtle suggestions that racism was at the root of the opposition. The accusation seemed largely without merit but had the potential to irreparably damage relationships in West Tampa.

Now a calm compromise is upon us. Club leaders and city officials are close to finalizing an agreement that would allow the new club to go up in Riverfront Park.

The location should work well. I'd love to see Tampa Prep let the kids use its nearby athletic fields, and University of Tampa students could step in as mentors.

Who knows? Maybe the West Tampa Boys & Girls Club will become home to the nation's top teenage crew team.

* * *

THEY MAY NOT DANCE like Michael Flatley, play the keyboards like Yanni or paint like Leroy Neiman.

But three Tampa residents - developer Al Austin, UT president Ronald Vaughn and heart doctor Raghavendra Vijayanagar - join that trio of celebrities and others as the 2004 winners of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. The prestigious award, which previously has gone to U.S. presidents, members of Congress and Nobel Prize winners, honors people who use their "time and talents to make America better."

The awards are given annually by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations, which pays tribute to the ancestry groups that make up America. Winners will be honored at a black-tie gala in New York on May 15.

* * *

KUDOS TO Erin Gardner, the reigning Miss Tampa. She has to go through an orientation program this weekend for the upcoming Miss Florida pageant, but she's not going to let that stop her from participating in commencement ceremonies at the University of South Florida.

Gardner will receive a degree in communications and would like to go into sports management.

Retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks will receive a honorary doctorate of engineering and military science at the 6 p.m. event Saturday in USF's Sun Dome.

* * *

FINALLY, I THOUGHT, a video game with some real value. My sons began playing Harvest Moon for the Nintendo Game Boy a couple of weeks ago, and for the first time, they were required to actually think logically to succeed.

The game is much like the simulated life games that have been played by adults for years. Instead of shooting characters with a laser or kicking villains in the head, Harvest Moon requires kids to live in a rural town and work the farm. They have to pull weeds, plant seeds, earn money, buy livestock and harvest crops. They can buy animals, but if they don't take care of them - talk to them, feed them, brush them - they die.

They also have to attend parties and festivals, form relationships and maybe even get married. Six young girls are available to be courted, and the player must acquire items and give them to the girl in order to impress. Matthew lamented that every time he gave "Karen" a gift, like chocolate, she didn't like it.

I told him get used to it.

Everything was fine until Sunday, when Matthew gave "Karen" a bottle of wine and she fell in love with him. Wine? Clearly, I didn't read the fine print next to the "E for Everyone" rating that said the game involved alcohol.

Now I'm going to have to involve myself in a long discussion about life, love and the alcohol-free pursuit of girls.

That's all I'm saying.

- Ernest Hooper can be reached at 813 226-3406 or at

[Last modified April 27, 2004, 01:05:33]

Times columns today
Howard Troxler: A sampling of comment, seasoned with sarcasm
Ernest Hooper: Riverfront Park ought to give club good home
John Romano: A dream finally shared

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