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Lakewood, Tarpon Springs get grants to improve athletic facilities

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Fri. April 4, 2014 | Bob Putnam | Email

For years, Lakewood’s athletic facilities have been inadequate.

The ceiling in the gymnasium is so low that volleyballs often hit tiles during games, exposing air ducts and vents because the tiles are not replaced.

The gym’s seating capacity is so small that rivalry and playoff basketball games are usually moved to Eckerd College to accommodate crowds.

The track on the football field is asphalt and has only six lanes, not the eight needed for postseason meets.

The facilities are not a fit for an athletic program that ranks as one of the best in the bay area. The girls basketball team won a state title in 2011, the boys track team won in 2013, the football team made the final four last fall, and boys basketball reached the state final last month.

“It’s a joke,” Lakewood girls basketball coach and athletic coordinator Necole Tunsil said.

The school received some monetary relief — $12,000 — this week as part of the Muscle Milk Recovery Grant Program. Tunsil said the money will be used to replace the two wooden backboards and rims on the side of the gymnasium with glass boards, as well as buy an athletic training table, hydrating stations and less bulky weightlifting equipment (such as medicine balls and dumbbells).

Tarpon Springs also received $15,000 through the same grant program and will use the funds primarily to upgrade the weight room, football coach Ron Hawn said.

“For us, it is a start, but it is not enough,” Tunsil said. “I look around and every high school in the St. Petersburg area has had their gymnasium done in the past 10 years except us. And really, all our facilities are in need of upgrades.

“Because we’re the closest school to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, does the county think we’ve just been annexed by Manatee County? It sure seems like we’ve been ignored.”

Pinellas County athletic coordinator Nick Grasso said in an email that he was unaware of any timetable for the county to make improvements to Lakewood’s gymnasium.

Tunsil said she is trying to work with former Lakewood standout and current Tampa Bay Buccaneer Louis Murphy Jr. on getting community support for additional funding for improvements.

“There’s still work to do,” Tunsil said. “We’ve made do. Look at how much success we’ve had in just about every sport here. We’d just like our facilities to reflect that.”

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