Sunday, September 23, 2018
News Roundup

New Vinik Boys and Girls Club rises from ashes in Palm River/Clair-Mel

TAMPA — A new Boys and Girls Club opened Tuesday, in time for the first days of the school year and the estimated 200 students now pouring in each day for after-school fun and education.

The dedication ceremony was all the more meaningful because the new center in Palm River/Clair-Mel had to be built twice.

The Jeff & Penny Vinik Family Club at Winston Park burned to the ground in November 2016, nine months into construction and with the drywall and wiring already in place. The cause of the fire was officially listed as undetermined; Hillsborough County Fire Rescue didn’t find enough evidence to reach a conclusion, spokesman Eric Seidel said.

The scene Tuesday afternoon was a far cry from that winter’s night 21 months ago when some 35 firefighters spent more than an hour knocking down flames visible blocks away.

In their place, dozens of children in yellow Boys and Girls Clubs t-shirts clapped and cheered along with local leaders and hundreds of well wishers as philanthropists Jeff and Penny Vinik held open a pair of giant scissors and clamped down to cut a ceremonial ribbon.

The doors opened on a 10,000-square-foot home away from home — with "many beautiful young smiles to go with it," Penny Vinik noted — in a neighborhood where more than one child out of every three lives below the poverty level.

Inside, the center features a computer lab, a teen center, a dance studio, a music mixing room, a large all-purpose room and a lunch room where counselors hand out meals every day. Outside, children will have use of a playground with jungle gyms, a full basketball court and a state-of-the-art street hockey rink.

"What a wonderful experience it was to see this place come together," said a grinning Ricky Gallon, director of the club and a local basketball legend who, in the 1970s, took Leto High School to the state semifinals and later played for the University of Louisville.

The Boys and Girls Club in West Tampa played a big part in Gallon’s young life.

"It gets right to my heart. I can’t tell you how great the Viniks and everyone involved with this have been."

The Vinik Family Club is the fifth Boys and Girls Club to open under a partnership with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. A sheriff’s deputy is present at the clubs 24 hours a day.

In 2008, when real estate prices were crashing in the Tampa Bay area, Winston Park was identified as one of several Hillsborough County recreation centers considered for closing because of budget cuts. The center — at 7605 Destin Drive, adjacent to Clair-Mel Elementary and Dowdell Middle Magnet schools — remained open through the efforts of the neighborhood and County Commissioner Les Miller.

Then in 2016, the Viniks contributed $2.5 million to transform the center through the Boys and Girls Clubs. Jeff Vinik is owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning and a developer of the $3 billion Water Street Tampa project.

"Penny would say, ‘It has to be durable and cheerful, and durable and positive, and durable, and it needs to have a dance studio, and did I say it needs to be durable?’" Gallon recalled. "She was on it."

The Viniks were delighted with the results.

"We wanted to impact as many kids as possible," Penny Vinik said Tuesday, "to give them a place where they feel safe and they are having fun and learning something at the same time."

Said Jeff Vinik, "It’s so wonderful to hear the kids’ voices and their laughter in here today. The kids bring this place to life."

Contact Scott Purks at [email protected]

Comments
Sound-Smarter-Than-Your-Friends Guide to Steelers-Buccaneers: Where is Ronald Jones?

Sound-Smarter-Than-Your-Friends Guide to Steelers-Buccaneers: Where is Ronald Jones?

One of the dominant storylines heading into Monday Night Football between the first-place Buccaneers and the last-place Steelers will be the things we didn’t expect to see. It’s the team that usually melts down against the team that actua...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
For starters: Rays at Jays, with Snell seeking No. 21

For starters: Rays at Jays, with Snell seeking No. 21

UPDATE, 12:14: Snell takes the mound today leading the AL in wins, ERA (1.97) and opponents average (.179). … Cash noted that Snell "is in elite company now with the Rays, and he has the chance to stand alone." …  The Rays note that ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Matt Baker’s AP Top 25 ballot: Florida’s new top team

Matt Baker’s AP Top 25 ballot: Florida’s new top team

After four full weekends of college football, here's what I know:There is one great team (Alabama). There are three very good teams (Georgia, Ohio State and Clemson).After that? There are a lot of flawed teams with messy results that seem bunched tog...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Deputies: Driver kills Brandon cyclist, 73, in hit-and-run

Deputies: Driver kills Brandon cyclist, 73, in hit-and-run

BRANDON — A cyclist died in what authorities said is a hit-and-run crash, according to the Hillsborough County Sherrif’s Office.John Dilgard, 73, was riding a mountain bike southbound on Kings Avenue S about 12:42 a.m., the agency reported.A vehicle ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Police: Car runs red light, killing woman on motor scooter in St. Petersburg

Police: Car runs red light, killing woman on motor scooter in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — A woman died after a driver ran a red light on 5th Avenue N and hit her motor scooter early Sunday morning, police reported.Vallis Ann Oswain, 58, was driving the scooter northbound on 8th Street N about 2:22 a.m. She also carried a ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Weather: Expect a sunny Sunday, with clear evening ahead

Weather: Expect a sunny Sunday, with clear evening ahead

It may be the first weekend of fall, but it’ll still feel like the dog days of summer in Tampa Bay. The forecast predicts a sunny Sunday, with a high near 95 degrees and a low of 74. There is a 60 percent chance of rain.Tonight, expect a mostly clear...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Vehicle crashes into Tampa Havoline Xpress Lube, sets building ablaze, fire officials report

Vehicle crashes into Tampa Havoline Xpress Lube, sets building ablaze, fire officials report

TAMPA — A vehicle crashed into a Havoline Xpress Lube early Saturday morning, sparking flames that engulfed the structure, fire officials reported.According to Tampa Fire Rescue, multiple people called 911 about 2:40 a.m, reporting the fire on the 50...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Sunday Morning QB: Midseason point approaches

Sunday Morning QB: Midseason point approaches

Highlights from Week 5:Player of the WeekKhaishef Edwards, Largo: Since coming over from Northeast, Edwards has showed off his big-play potential with touchdown catches in three of the first four games, including three in a win over Palm Harbor Unive...
Updated: 4 hours ago
UF morning after: Gators answering opportunity’s knock

UF morning after: Gators answering opportunity’s knock

For all the positive vibes they gleaned Saturday night before a gradually disappearing audience, the Gators know they still must conquer their consistency issues.Still too many three-and-outs and muffed progressions. Too few running lanes."The consis...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Nearly half of cellphone calls will be scams by 2019, report says

Nearly half of cellphone calls will be scams by 2019, report says

Nearly half of all cellphone calls next year will come from scammers, according to First Orion, a company that provides phone carriers and their customers caller ID and call blocking technology.The Arkansas-based firm projects an explosion of incomin...
Published: 09/23/18