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Design for expansion at FishHawk Sports Complex

FISHHAWK — Plans to expand the FishHawk Sports Complex received mixed reviews last week at a community meeting.

The $2.8 million expansion, paid for with county impact fees, would add five soccer fields, parking and storm water retention to the existing complex. Using money originally allocated for a community park within FishHawk, the county also would add lighting to an existing multi-purpose field behind Randall Middle School and install a dog park.

Located on FishHawk Boulevard about a mile west of Lithia-Pinecrest Road, the complex currently has eight baseball diamonds and three multi-purpose fields shared by several sports.

"This should accomplish solving the problem we have now — tremendous overcrowding in soccer," Mark Thornton, director of the Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department, said at the Wednesday meeting.

There are currently 1,200 children in the soccer program at FishHawk, Thornton said, which makes it one of the most crowded in the county.

Those who use the fields are thankful for the expansion.

"We practice everyday in a postage stamp-sized field," said David Rowe, coach of the U-13 soccer team. "We need these fields."

But expanding the complex also would mean bringing noise and lights closer to residents living in the Starling neighborhood of FishHawk Ranch.

At least a dozen homes back up to the west side of the property where county workers would install a retention pond and parking. Plans call for the county to add a soccer field to the east of the homes and four more to the north.

"The lights on the soccer fields would bring down our property values," said Bob Coy, who lives in the neighborhood.

Many Starling residents also are angry about being deceived by their builders when they purchased their homes.

"We feel completely taken advantage of and bamboozled," homeowner Steven Lebow said.

"We were collectively told that there would never be development on that land. We paid a lot premium for that."

Expanding the park is not a new decision.

"This was a plan put in place many years ago when the community was developed," Thornton said.

The land is part of a plot donated to the county by Newland Communities, the developer of FishHawk, to build a sports complex. Plans have been in place to create the park since 2001. Workers finished the first stage in 2008.

The actual layout of the park expansion remains fluid, Thornton said. The county will seek public input through Jan. 6 and then try to make the plan work for everyone.

One possible change the county will examine is to exchange the piece of land closest to the residential neighborhood for land designated for conservation on the east side of the complex, Thornton said. That move, if possible, would result in just as many soccer fields and less noise and light pollution for neighbors.

The county will hold another public meeting with new designs for residents to discuss early next year, Thornton said.

Adding lighting to the existing field behind the adjacent Randall Middle School could begin sooner as long as there is not significant objection from the community, Thornton said. The county originally planned to create a park within the FishHawk community but abandoned the idea last year when residents objected to the park on the grounds that any county-owned and operated park would have to be accessible to everyone in the county, including nonFishHawk residents.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2442.

FISHHAWK — Plans to expand the FishHawk Sports Complex received mixed reviews last week at a community meeting.

The $2.8 million expansion, paid for with county impact fees, would add five soccer fields, parking and stormwater retention to the complex. Using money originally allocated for a community park within FishHawk, the county also would add lighting to a multipurpose field behind Randall Middle School and install a dog park.

Located on FishHawk Boulevard about a mile west of Lithia-Pinecrest Road, the complex has eight baseball diamonds and three multipurpose fields shared by several sports.

"This should accomplish solving the problem we have now — tremendous overcrowding in soccer," Mark Thornton, director of the Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department, said at the Wednesday meeting.

There are 1,200 children in the soccer program at FishHawk, Thornton said, which makes it one of the most crowded in the county.

Those who use the fields are thankful for the expansion.

"We practice every day in a postage stamp-sized field," said David Rowe, coach of the U-13 soccer team. "We need these fields."

But expanding the complex also would mean bringing noise and lights closer to residents living in the Starling neighborhood of FishHawk Ranch.

At least a dozen homes back up to the west side of the property where county workers would install a retention pond and parking. Plans call for the county to add a soccer field to the east of the homes and four more to the north.

"The lights on the soccer fields would bring down our property values," said Bob Coy, who lives in the neighborhood.

Many Starling residents also are angry about being deceived by their builders when they bought their homes.

"We feel completely taken advantage of and bamboozled," homeowner Steven Lebow said.

"We were collectively told that there would never be development on that land. We paid a lot premium for that."

Expanding the park is not a new decision.

"This was a plan put in place many years ago when the community was developed," Thornton said.

The land is part of a plot donated to the county by Newland Communities, the developer of FishHawk, to build a sports complex. Plans have been in place to create the park since 2001. Workers finished the first stage in 2008.

The actual layout of the park expansion remains fluid, Thornton said. The county will seek public input through Jan. 6 and then try to make the plan work for everyone.

One possible change the county will examine is to exchange the piece of land closest to the residential neighborhood for land designated for conservation on the east side of the complex, Thornton said. That move, if possible, would result in just as many soccer fields and less noise and light pollution for neighbors.

The county will hold another public meeting with new designs for residents to discuss early next year, Thornton said.

Adding lighting to the field behind the adjacent Randall Middle School could begin sooner as long as there is not significant objection from the community, Thornton said. The county originally planned to create a park within the FishHawk community but abandoned the idea last year when residents objected to the park on grounds that any county-owned and operated park would have to be accessible to everyone in the county, including non-FishHawk residents.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2442.

.Fast Facts

More information

Visit hillsboroughcounty.org/parks or call (813) 635-3500.

Design for expansion at FishHawk Sports Complex 12/17/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 17, 2011 3:30am]
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