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Funding clears way for new south county YMCA

RIVERVIEW — After securing $2 million in county funding, the YMCA is forging ahead with plans to open a new facility in south Hillsborough.

In partnership with Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation, the YMCA will expand recreational offerings in a growing region, said Cindy Sofarelli, senior group vice president of the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA.

"It maximizes the efforts for the community," she said about the public-private partnership. "It's a win-win."

The project is still in the initial planning stages. The partnership aims to build a YMCA facility on a 33-acre county-owned parcel next to Vance Vogel Park. The South Shore complex will contribute to the economic development of a burgeoning area located off the intersection of Interstate 75 and Big Bend Road, Sofarelli said.

The project has been in the works for nearly three years. In April 2010, the YMCA conducted an initial market study for community feedback and found residents showed interest in a full family facility, similar to the nearby Campo Family YMCA in Valrico, Sofarelli said. Their wish list included a gymnasium, sports fields and aquatics, which likely will be added to the South Shore complex in phases.

The new facility will provide a home base for existing YMCA programs run at places such as the South Shore United Methodist Church or South Bay Hospital, while also complementing the county park.

Because the project remains in its infancy, Sofarelli did not give any time frame for the start or completion of construction.

"It's still a footprint right now," she said. "I wouldn't say it's set in stone."

The approval of the county budget in September cemented a key piece of financial backing: County Commissioner Sandy Murman set aside an annual allocation of $500,000 for four years for the project. The money will be given in reimbursements to the YMCA from sales tax funds.

Sofarelli estimates the YMCA will need to raise an additional $4 million to $6 million for the facility.

But the public-private partnership cushions the costs for both parties.

"In this day and time," Murman said, "it's the best recipe for putting something in and having some public benefit."

Murman praised the YMCA's past cooperation with the county in providing services and constructing new facilities, such as the Campo pool, using public grants.

"They did it by the book," she said. "And it was really almost an example of how a project should be done."

Still, Murman said the organization will be subject to any new rules and policies that may be implemented for groups receiving county funding following recent criticism of public dollars spent to build the Regent in Riverview.

The YMCA is expected to present a business plan Nov. 2 to the County Commission, Murman said.

Stephanie Wang can be reached at or (813) 661-2443.

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Funding clears way for new south county YMCA 10/13/11 [Last modified: Thursday, October 13, 2011 4:30am]
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