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Racquetball fan fights to keep court

photo
[Times photo: Mike Pease]
David Lanigan wants to keep this racquetball court at Hampton Park in Tampa Palms and another one like it. The Tampa Palms Community Development District is considering removing the courts and using the space for something else.

By SUSAN THURSTON

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 1, 2001


The racquetball courts at Hampton Park might be razed for other recreational use, but not if one resident can help it.

TAMPA PALMS -- David Lanigan likes playing racquetball. It's fun, good exercise and there's a decent court near his home in Tampa Palms.

So when he heard it might be torn down, he objected.

The Tampa Palms Community Development District is considering removing the racquetball courts at Hampton Park as part of next year's budget. The staff says not enough people are using them and the land would be better suited for something else.

Lanigan disagrees. He plays a few times a month and feels the lighted facility is an asset to the community.

"Why take out something that's already there?" said Lanigan, who recently contacted district board members and employees to express his opposition. "If (they) wish to add facilities, they can do so at other parks."

The proposed budget for 2001-02 sets aside $6,800 to level the two-court facility and replace it with grass. The report says getting rid of it would add much-needed green space and give children more room to play soccer. The staff also has suggested a water playground like ones in Disney World and Hyde Park, where kids run through small water fountains.

Tampa Palms supervisor Mark Hensleigh said that installing a children's wading pool or something similar could benefit more people. Just because the court is built and paid for doesn't justify keeping it.

"If staff feels that the court is a dinosaur, wouldn't it make more sense to provide something that more people would use?" he said. "I don't care how loud anyone talks. If it's not in the best interest of the community, it's not going to happen."

Lanigan argues that the courts take minimal space and are cheap to maintain. It's also the only racquetball facility in New Tampa that isn't part of an apartment complex, he said.

"Let's leave what's there," said Lanigan, who lives within biking distance. "They need to explain why it ought to be destroyed."

John Daugirda, manager of the Tampa Palms district, said removing the courts was just one of several recommendations.

"We're just discussing it and we'll take it to the board for them to decide," he said.

Other proposals for the park on Tampa Palms Boulevard include $60,000 for rubber flooring under the playground equipment, $20,000 for new lights, $16,500 for new benches, trash cans and bike racks, and $15,000 to resurface the basketball and tennis courts.

The board will consider the entire $2.1-million budget at various hearings throughout the summer, including the next meeting July 11, at Compton Park. Lanigan, who has lived in Tampa Palms since 1993, says he plans to attend.

Bill Edwards, president of the Tampa Palms Owners Association, said any changes to the park would have to be approved by the association's architectural review board. Although the association has no say about removing the court, he doesn't see the benefit.

"It's quite a small area and it's close to the road," he said. "I don't understand the reason for it."

- Susan Thurston can be reached at (813) 226-3463.

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