South county YMCA in the works

A new branch is planned, to serve residents who currently drive long distances to a facility.
Published July 26 2013
Updated July 26 2013

GIBSONTON — Noelle Montoya is thrilled her days of driving long distances to enjoy the YMCA may soon be over.

Tampa YMCA officials unveiled detailed plans for a YMCA branch in south county and said some pieces of the project could be finished as early as April 2015. YMCA officials said a proposed agreement with Hillsborough County will be reviewed by county commissioners Aug. 7.

"I want a facility here. Like tomorrow," said Montoya, who lives in Riverview. "It would be perfect for us."

Montoya, 31, said she drives 30 to 45 minutes to visit YMCA branches in Valrico and Brandon. She and about 80 other people listened to the plans for the proposed YMCA in south county during a July 23 public meeting at East Bay High School.

Montoya said her children swim at the Campo YMCA in Valrico and take gymnastics classes at the Brandon YMCA. She said the southern part of the county is booming with residents and deserves a branch.

"Everyone I know in this area would be at the Y," she said. "If they build the Y, people will be there."

Not everyone backed the proposed YMCA near Vance Vogel Park.

Many said the branch should be farther south to be more centralized to residents in Ruskin and Wimauma. Some worried about the traffic the facility would create on already clogged roads. One said the area is prone to flooding. Another begged officials to enclose the pool so it could be used in bad weather.

One longtime opponent to the project said a YMCA branch would be better placed several miles to the south.

Mary Beth Sultenfuss, owner of the Apollo Beach Racquet & Fitness Club, said 40 businesses, such as health clubs, day care centers and karate schools, would be hurt by the YMCA branch at its current location. She also said that the land should instead be sold to private groups and turned into tax dollars for Hillsborough County.

"My concern is not the Y," she said. "My concern is this location. Thirty-eight acres of prime real estate."

Tom Looby, chief executive officer of the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA, said residents polled wanted the facility on Big Bend Road, between Interstate 75 and U.S. 301. He addressed many of the concerns and also asked people to fill out comment sheets.

The county has pledged $2 million of the estimated $3.5 million needed to finish the first phase of the project at Bullfrog Creek and Old Big Bend Roads. The YMCA is proposing the first phase house three multipurpose athletic fields, an outdoor basketball court with a roof, pavilion, restrooms and playground.

Subsequent plans include two more athletic fields, a second covered basketball court, a building and aquatics center.

The YMCA is working to raise money for the other phases, which would cost about $6 million.

Kim Leach of Riverview said she is looking forward to a YMCA branch near her home. She now visits the YMCA branch in Valrico, the closest one, with her 6-year-old son and infant foster daughter.

"I'm a big fan of the Y," she told YMCA and county officials.

Monica Bennett can be reached at [email protected]