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Oscar Cooler Youth Sports Complex expansion in Lutz opens Saturday

LUTZ — With the help of youth football, soccer and cheerleading squads, Hillsborough County officials will open a $3.9 million addition to the Oscar Cooler Youth Sports Complex at 9 a.m. Saturday. Years in the making, the new fields will see their first football practice immediately after the opening. Here's a quick look at the project. Richard Danielson, Times staff writer

What's new: One soccer game field, one football game field, three combination soccer/football practice fields, one small football practice field, two concession buildings with restrooms, two maintenance buildings and parking.

Where: 19045 Crooked Lane in Lutz, south of Lutz-Lake Fern Road and west of U.S. 41.

How big: 33 acres.

Why it's important: The complex already is home to Little League baseball, Lutz Leaguerettes softball and Lutz Chiefs football and cheerleading. But until now, there was no space for soccer. More than 500 players and cheerleaders are expected to use the expanded complex. The original park (baseball and softball) and new expansion (football and soccer) are meant to function as separate parks so children do not have to cross Crooked Lane.

The history: In the mid 1970s, Lutz resident Oscar Cooler rallied neighbors and civic groups to donate their own time, materials and sweat to build an athletic complex on a former orange grove bought by the county. Since then, the park has been a point of pride and symbol of the community's readiness to pitch in for a cause.

What they're saying: "I am so proud of that thing," said Cooler, now 81, who welcomed the addition of soccer fields. "We need to spend more time keeping our young people busy rather than just walking the streets. You can't do better than to have recreation in any community."

Still to come: Improvements to the original park, which will continue to be used for baseball and softball. The money for the project is in the budget, but there is no schedule yet for the work.

Oscar Cooler Youth Sports Complex expansion in Lutz opens Saturday 08/12/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 11, 2010 11:47am]
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