Volleyball fans can thank church

Central Christian partners with the city of St. Petersburg to buy materials to add a sand court at Northwest Community Center.

Published May 7, 2007

It began with a phone call.

Jan DeVega first talked to city officials about the possibility of a skate park. Central Christian Church, where she is a member, would create it.

But the conversation quickly turned to another idea: a sand court, replicating a place for popular beach volleyball.

On Wednesday, city crews built such a court at Northwest Community Center, 5801 22nd Ave. N.

Central Christian Church paid the cost of the materials, $1, 300.

The partnership with a faith-based organization is unusual, said Lee Metzger, city services administrator.

"It's not often when we get somebody say, 'We'd like this, ' and then step up and say, 'We'll help, ' " Metzger said.

The court is one of nine the city maintains. Four of them are on the city-owned beach in Treasure Island.

North Shore Park has two. Denver and Walter Fuller parks each have one. Teens raised the money to build Walter Fuller's, Metzger said.

Central Christian moved last year from its longtime site on First Avenue S and 49th Street, acquiring a new home on what had been Garden of Peace Lutheran Church, 6161 22nd Ave. N.

The site didn't have a gymnasium. "But we felt like we inherited a park, " said Stan Percival, Central Christian's senior pastor. "But it didn't have a place for volleyball."

The city will maintain the court, which is easily visible from 58th Street N. No extra lights will be needed for night play, Metzger said, because an adjacent ballfield's lights will throw enough illumination.

The court is open to the public. Groups can reserve specific times. Metzger said the church will be given priority in such scheduling if its requests are made three months in advance.

DeVega, who lives in nearby Sheryl Manor, said that as a youngster she played on the indoor court at the old Northwest facility. The new center, which opened in 2005, wasn't set up for volleyball.