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    Athletes love the lush feel of new field

    A renovation for Seminole's athletic field makes its debut to cheers. It's part of a major building project that includes a gym and weight room.

    By MAUREEN BYRNE

    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 31, 2000


    SEMINOLE -- A new athletic field, part of a $6.1-million building and renovation project at the city's recreation center, opened Monday to an enthusiastic crowd of youngsters.

    To the boys and girls, the new turf is a highly anticipated improvement over the shabby patch of land they had been using for a soccer field.

    Since the season ended in February, workers leveled the playing area, added an irrigation and drainage system, laid sod and installed fencing and new lights.

    But to city officials, the $500,000 renovation marks the partial completion of Phase One of the city's largest municipal building project. City Manager Frank Edmunds said all of Phase One, which includes an addition featuring a gym, weight room, two racquetball courts and offices, should be finished in January.

    "I'm happy," said Jim Sheets, the city's recreation director. "We're excited to have activity out there."

    After a brief dedication ceremony Monday evening, members of Seminole Shooting Stars Soccer Association ran onto the grass for their first practice on the new field. Since the season started earlier this month, the league's teams have been practicing at Seminole Middle School and Seminole Elementary School.

    Dylan Hoyt, 6, of Seminole was one of about 50 children practicing Monday night. "The grass was all scratchy before. This is really nice."

    The league, open to 4- to 18-year-olds, has been using the city-owned property since 1993. The 15-year-old organization paid its own utility bills and for someone to cut the grass.

    "It wasn't as well-maintained as this one is going to be," said Lori Sagide, a coach and registrar for the soccer league. "We're going to enjoy every minute of it."

    Now the city will pay for the upkeep of the field, which is suited for soccer, softball, flag football and youth baseball. Shooting Stars players who are residents pay $70 in fees to the league. Non-residents pay the city a $25 surcharge, which will go toward maintenance costs for the field.

    Phase Two of the overall project includes renovating the existing recreation center, a former church the city purchased in 1992. Phase Three is the construction of three swimming pools, including a six-lane, 25-meter pool. Edmunds said the project, except for the pool area, should be done in May.

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