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First Tee golf plan to get review

TAMPA — Residents worried about plans to house a golf program for children at Rogers Park Golf Course won a round Monday.

The Tampa Sports Authority agreed to take a month to listen to their concerns. Depending on what's said, it may then ask Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio to make some changes to the plan.

Rogers Park is owned by the city of Tampa but run by the Sports Authority.

Two years ago, the city and the Sports Authority reached an agreement with the YMCA to house the First Tee program in the former clubhouse. First Tee attempts to teach children life skills, such as honesty and sportsmanship, through golf, and would have access to parts of the course.

Rogers Park was built in 1952 by black businessmen to give black people a place to play golf in an era of segregation. Since it was acquired by the city, some black residents who remember that legacy have fought years of neglect compared to other public courses.

Nearly a decade ago, the residents fought a proposal to turn the park over to the YMCA.

Now some of those same residents are concerned that without hard assurances about how First Tee will operate, that same outcome could happen through different means.

James Ransom, grandson of the park's namesake and representative of the group Citizens Who Support Keeping Rogers Park Public, expressed frustration that his group hasn't been consulted.

He said he would like to see the old clubhouse used as a museum for black golfers. And he said the agreement between the city and the YMCA is too vague on assurances that First Tee will cater to underprivileged children while not infringing on residents' access to the course.

"You need to take a step back and slow this train down," Ransom told Sports Authority board members Monday. "You have a 10-year contract with no review. That is nonsense."

Board member Frank DeBose, who led a subcommittee that has been working on the project, said Ransom and others were included. Nevertheless, he agreed the panel should hold an emergency meeting to seek more input from Ransom and anyone else who wants a say.

Ransom said his concerns have been all but ignored over the past year or so, but applauded the step taken by the Sports Authority.

Depending on the outcome of that discussion, the Sports Authority could forward a letter to Iorio asking that the concerns raised be addressed in the agreement with First Tee and the YMCA.

Tom Scott, the Tampa City Council representative on the Sports Authority, said it will ultimately be up to the mayor to decide if she will change the agreement.

Bill Varian can be reached at varian@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3387.

First Tee golf plan to get review 11/17/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 18, 2008 12:02am]
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