Tuesday, April 24, 2018
News Roundup

Long-sought sports fields in East Lake are now open for play

EAST LAKE — The East Lake Youth Sports Association's two new soccer fields are built in a meadow surrounded by oak hammocks and cypress swamps.

It's a slice of old Florida. A place where cows once grazed. A home for deer, owls and wild turkey.

Here, the grass is truly greener — and softer.

During a recent evening practice, soccer player Angela Iachello, 14, of East Lake, said the new fields that opened for play Nov. 17 are safer.

"Over there, we'd dig into the dirt and it could really hurt," she said, motioning across the road toward the association's original sports complex, hidden from view by trees.

"It's not nearly as crowded," added teammate Madison Smith, 15, of Palm Harbor.

And that's the point.

For more than a decade, the nonprofit Youth Sports Association, which serves about 2,000 young people ages 4 to 18 in unincorporated North Pinellas, has been searching for a place to lay down some new turf for the area's expanding population of children and teens.

Its current 27-acre sports complex off Old Keystone Road is utilized year-round for a variety of sports. The fields are beaten down from overuse.

"This has been a long time coming," association president Rick Watson said of the new fields. "We've needed additional space for 12 to 15 years."

Previous attempts to secure more ball fields had environmentalists, neighbors and others crying foul.

At one point, the county was going to donate 38 acres inside the Brooker Creek Preserve for the fields, but dropped that idea after environmentalists and others protested.

Later, a school district property in East Lake was considered, but that didn't work out either.

Then in 2008, the county purchased the 871-acre Eldridge-Wilde well field $17.4 million — a property it had long sought for preservation purposes. County officials announced that they would set aside 100 acres of the new property for recreational sports facilities, with the balance going to the Brooker Creek Preserve.

The county paid $1.17 million to develop the fields. The monies came from Penny for Pinellas sales tax revenue, proceeds from a Florida Communities Trust grant and unspent grant money from the sports association.

Neighbors of the association's existing complex tried to halt development of new fields so close by. They said the traffic, bright lights and public address systems were shattering the peace and quiet of the rural area — they didn't want more.

County Commissioner Susan Latvala, who has been helping the association find locations for new fields since she took office 12 years ago, said the county did everything possible to mitigate noise and bright field lights when selecting the remote spot.

"We moved it as far away from residents as possible," she said. "It's tucked away; it's quiet and breathtakingly beautiful. You can't see any houses or hear anything. The lighting is state-of-the art and doesn't spill over."

Latvala said she hasn't heard any grumbling about the new fields. But resident Shirley Muller, who lives near the original sports complex, said there's no use complaining anymore.

"Why should I? The county just goes ahead and does what it wants to," she said.

"We have more traffic now. We have more cars going 70 mph down Old Keystone Road. We have more McDonald's bags on the side of the road," she said.

But for soccer coach Alex Myers, the new fields are a "godsend."

"We are very fortunate to have them," he said. "This playing surface is top-notch; it really helps our ability to play."

Correspondent Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at [email protected] To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Comments
Forecast: After storms produce damage in Ruskin, clear conditions ahead for Tampa Bay

Forecast: After storms produce damage in Ruskin, clear conditions ahead for Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — Forecasters said rain could fall on Monday before conditions cleared, leaving drier air and less humidity behind.That rain moved through Ruskin with a vengeance Monday night, and produced a treacherous early-morning commute for resid...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Missing Wesley Chapel boy, 12, found safe

Missing Wesley Chapel boy, 12, found safe

A Florida Missing Child Alert has been cancelled for a 12-year-old boy in Wesley Chapel.Tyshawn Govan has been located and is safe, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.The boy had last been seen Monday night near the 2200 block of Marsh Vi...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Waffle House shooter’s guns were seized but then returned

Waffle House shooter’s guns were seized but then returned

Travis Reinking exhibited multiple warning signs that he was mentally unstable: He talked openly about delusions that he was being stalked by Taylor Swift. He insisted unknown people were making barking noises outside his home. He even went to the Wh...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bruins’ Brad Marchand: ‘You have to be willing to do anything … in order to win’

Bruins’ Brad Marchand: ‘You have to be willing to do anything … in order to win’

Brad Marchand might be the ultimate pest, but he's not the original.Not even in his own family.The Boston Bruins left wing writes in a first-person story published last week in The Players' Tribune that he got his inspiration from his younger br...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays prospect Adames hits for cycle

Rays prospect Adames hits for cycle

Willy Adames, the Rays top position player prospect, touched all the bases in hitting for the cycle in Triple-A Durham's Monday's win over Buffalo.Adames doubled in the first inning, singled in the fifth, tripled in the sixth and completed the rare f...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Daystarter: A Murphy-Jolly gubernatorial run?; ALF residents’ deplorable conditions; committee to pick pier art; Lightning must wait to learn opponent

The Daystarter: A Murphy-Jolly gubernatorial run?; ALF residents’ deplorable conditions; committee to pick pier art; Lightning must wait to learn opponent

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.   • Give thanks for drier air. There is a small rain chance this morning, but things dry out by the afternoon, according to 10Weather WTSP. Beats yesterday’s humidity. The...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Garcia doesn’t care about NFL draft: ‘I have a life’

Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Garcia doesn’t care about NFL draft: ‘I have a life’

So much of the attention Monday surrounding the Bucs' announcing who'd be announcing their late-round draft picks was, of course, that a parrot would be delivering the name of the fourth-round pick to the pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium.But late...
Updated: 1 hour ago
NFL Draft: Date, time, TV schedule and draft order for the April 26-28 draft

NFL Draft: Date, time, TV schedule and draft order for the April 26-28 draft

The NFL Draft starts Thursday from Arlington, Texas, with coverage of the first round beginning at 8 p.m. ET. Here's a look at the broadcast schedule for all three days and the draft order for every round:Schedule(all times Eastern)Thursday, April 26...
Updated: 2 hours ago
St. Pete Pier public arts committee to meet with finalists, make decision

St. Pete Pier public arts committee to meet with finalists, make decision

ST. PETERSBURG — The pier public arts committee is expected to decide today which artist or artists will have their work showcased in the new 26-acre Pier District. The committee, which selected six finalists with the help of consultant Ann Wykell, w...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Twin sisters from Tampa helping shape Fox’s ‘Empire’ say they’d like to tell Tampa stories

Twin sisters from Tampa helping shape Fox’s ‘Empire’ say they’d like to tell Tampa stories

JaNeika and JaSheika James’ television obsession was fueled by scarcity and convenience. As self-described "military brats" living in Germany, the girls treasured the VHS tapes their grandmother shipped overseas filled with English-language Saturday ...
Updated: 2 hours ago