Coliseum emerges from collective effort

Parents, faculty, alumni and business partners donate nearly $2-million.

Published November 24, 2006

Students, faculty, parents and community partners officially donated Gorrie Coliseum to the Hillsborough County School District during Monday morning's grand opening.

The 9,684-square-foot multi-purpose building cost close to $2-million, raised entirely through the donations of Gorrie Elementary student families, business partners, alumni and faculty.

Fifth-graders from Girl Scout Troop 311 led the Pledge of Allegiance, the first official ceremony in the Icebox, a nickname referring to John B. Gorrie having invented a prototype of air-conditioning.

Gorrie was the center of the community in 1889 and still is today, said principal Susan Foster. The Coliseum will host sporting events, dances, science fairs and art displays. Previously, the 580-student body assembled in shifts in the cafeteria or in the Friday Morning Musicale across the street.

"You'll start PE classes right here Monday morning," Foster told the squirming rows of students seated on the shiny wood floor.

"Now we can play big games like on a field," said Lydia Kriseman, 9.

"We don't have to be cramped in a PE portable," chimed in Emma Napper, 9.

The School Board purchased a vacant lot at the corner of Horatio Street and Brevard Avenue 10 years ago for $165,000. When Hyde Park preservationists denied original plans to erect a covered playground, a committee pursued a multipurpose room. In fall 2003, Mary Kay Holt, then a Gorrie parent, organized efforts to rezone the property, obtain City Council approval and close Brevard Street. Another Gorrie parent, architect Geoff Meyer, designed the building to mimic the old Davis Islands Coliseum.

Construction began in July 2005.

"See what we can achieve when we all work together," said Carol Wells, building committee chairwoman. She singled out donors Don and Erika Wallace, as well as past PTSA and Gorrie Foundation presidents.

Various ongoing fundraisers include bake sales, bricks engraved with a donor names and Fun Fridays, when kids pay a quarter to see their teachers wear silly hats. Nearly 100 families who donated $1,000 or more will soon see their names on a granite wall.

Foster said she gets "all goose bumpy" at the sight of the ceramic tiles painted and glazed by the Class of 2006. They now dot the bathroom walls.

Amy Scherzer can be reached at scherzer@sptimes.com or 813 226-3332.