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Kids to weigh in on new playground for Tarpon Springs

The Tampa Bay Rays are excited about being able to work with KaBOOM! again to build a playground. This park will be on city land across from the Union Academy Family Center.

Courtesy Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays are excited about being able to work with KaBOOM! again to build a playground. This park will be on city land across from the Union Academy Family Center.

TARPON SPRINGS — When 7-year-old Dezarae Lee envisions her community's planned playground, she describes rainbow-colored monkey bars and a violet-purple slide.

Perhaps there should be two slides, added Sanai Lee, Dezarae's 11-year-old sister.

"The boys might want blue and green."

Come September, the sisters will have a chance to make their voices heard. Alongside dozens of other children, Sanai and Dezarae will weigh in on designs for a Tarpon Springs playground just about a block from their house.

The Citizens Alliance for Progress, a Tarpon community group, will work with the Tampa Bay Rays and Washington, D.C.-based KaBOOM!, to turn a grassy lot across the street from the Union Academy Family Center on 401 E Martin Luther King Jr. Drive into a colorful, 2,500-square-foot place to play.

KaBOOM! is a national nonprofit that has helped build 2,200 playgrounds nationally, including 35 in Tampa Bay.

The Rays will contribute roughly 85 percent of the cost and the Citizens Alliance for Progress will raise about 15 percent. The estimated cost of the playground is about $100,000.

The project has been in the works about two years, said Tarpon Springs Mayor David Archie, who heads the Citizens Alliance for Progress, known as CAP.

The organization applied to KaBOOM!, which in turn secured funding from the Rays.

The park will be on city land, about a half-mile from the Mango Circle public housing complex.

The impetus for the playground project, Archie said, was a Tampa Bay Times report in 2010 that Mango Circle's playground was littered with glass and the play equipment contained traces of lead-based paint.

Archie, who did not participate when other members of the City Commission voted to use city land for the playground, said the playground will help raise the quality of life in an area where there are few places for children to play.

"A healthier child will grow up to be a healthier adult, and that will be healthier for our entire community," Archie said.

Each playground KaBOOM! helps build is different, but the formula is often the same.

Most of the money comes from a large donor (the Rays). But a local group (Citizens Alliance for Progress) must also raise some of the money, to encourage community investment.

Plans for the playgrounds take form on Design Day, when KaBOOM! supplies bright crayons to children so they can draw their own dream playgrounds, said Mike Vietti, a KaBOOM! spokesman.

While some kids dream a little too big (think helicopters and shark tanks), many ask for teeter-totters, swings and hopscotch.

KaBOOM! incorporates the kids' wishes into the playgrounds' blueprints.

"We look for common themes," Vietti said. "Children universally are extremely creative."

KaBOOM! then supervises the playground's construction.

Typically, the playground is built in one day with 150 to 200 volunteers.

In this case, the Rays will team with community volunteers to build the playground, said Brian Auld, vice president of business operations for the Rays.

Rays baseball players will be among the volunteers, Auld said, adding that players have attended the other three times when the team sponsored KaBOOM! playgrounds.

"KaBOOM!'s process is really great, and they make sure the recipient of the playground gets involved," Auld said. "It's just something really great to be a part of."

Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at bdavis@tampabay.com or (850) 323-0353.

Kids to weigh in on new playground for Tarpon Springs 02/27/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 7:51pm]

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