WESTCHASE — It has been just over two months since the Westchase Recreation Center opened its new gymnasium, and the community has wasted little time putting it to good use.
"Reaction has been fantastic," said Shorty Robbins, recreation services manager at Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation.
The new 10,000-square-foot building, next to the center's original multipurpose room, features a full hardwood basketball court with six retractable goals, a second multipurpose room, and additional restroom and changing facilities. Construction is under way to create a lobby by enclosing the breezeway connecting the two structures.
The expansion is part of the department's 2011 restructuring that designated 10 regional recreation centers for upgrades.
"Westchase was selected as a regional site because of the strong after-school participation and the community's desire for a larger space," Robbins said.
The $2.26 million project, funded primarily by the Hillsborough Community Investment Tax, aims to go beyond amenities and more square footage. It increases opportunities for this community of nearly 22,000 residents.
"The goal of this facility is to be a neighborhood jewel, a true community partner with programs that enhance the quality of life for citizens and visitors," Robbins said.
So far, the center is meeting that expectation. New programs have been added to cater to every segment of the community, from creative movement classes for toddlers to powerlifting for active seniors.
That diverse programming appeals to Westchase resident Jason Lecorchick. "There is something for everyone in my family," he said. "I recently enrolled my son and daughter in the instructional basketball classes, and they absolutely loved it. I also get to participate on the specific nights set aside for open gym basketball, and my wife is able to go to the Zumba or Jazzercise classes."
The Lecorchicks aren't alone.
"Attendance has jumped from 80 visitors in weekly community use to over 1,000 per week," Robbins said.
The programs are not only diverse, they're affordable. Programs monitored by the center's staff, such as open gym hours and powerlifting sessions, are free of charge. Those that rely on outside coaches and fitness instructors charge a nominal fee, generally no more than $10 per class.
The center is also able to expand its popular Rec2Six after-school program for children in grades K-5. The program is sought after for its reasonable rates and focus on physical fitness and nutrition education, resulting in a lengthy waiting list.
"We are currently reducing our waiting list in increments of 20 to help guarantee a smooth transition for new arrivals," Robbins said.
By the end of the school year, the program's capacity will double to accommodate 200 children.
The changes that have taken place in these initial months are just the beginning.
"Even more classes are being added after the holidays," Robbins said.
The Westchase Recreation Center is at 9791 Westchase Drive. For programs offered, call (813) 964-2948, or find info and classes at tinyurl.com/tbt-gym.