Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Youth Sports

New community center in Odessa will offer a cheap fitness option


One factor that contributes to the cost of any recreational activity for kids is the facility. In Odessa, however, there is an alternative already in place that's about to become a lot more enticing for local families who can't afford karate academies or the YMCA.

Cheryl Cleveland began teaching martial arts classes at the Odessa Recreation Center four years ago and quickly saw her class size grow beyond what the facility could handle. At the First Baptist Church where she volunteered, Cleveland found more than a short-term answer to her problem.

"One day I asked about the building next door, and they said they had no plans for it," said Cleveland, a third-degree black belt. "It looks small, but the inside is 7,000 square feet. So I started using the money from my classes, which runs on a donation basis only, to renovate the building. My original goal was to open by January of 2010, but now it looks like we may be able to open it as early as September or October."

Cleveland has dumped $60,000 into the project since the idea first came to her two years ago. Some of the funds came from donations, but she has had to take out a line of credit to fund the project. Cleveland has established her school of martial arts and the new Community Fun and Fitness Center as a nonprofit organization, and is excited about the possibilities that brings.

"Especially right now, it's difficult for families to spend money on a YMCA," Cleveland said. "With these classes, you pay what you can when you can. The new facility will be the same as what we're doing now, but we'll be able to offer other programs other than just martial arts."

For now, Cleveland conducts her classes in an open room at the church where her students meet with little more than a few mats and a couple of punching bags. What Cleveland is able to do with the kids using the little she has impresses parents of her students. Chris Eisel drives from Holiday so her child can participate in the program because of the work Cleveland does with the kids.

"The new facility will be nice, but this class is great because of the instruction the kids receive," Eisel said. "Cheryl is amazing. She spends enough one-on-one time with them so that kids learn and she is there to help them with whatever they need."

For her students, the new facility will be a luxury that opens up more possibilities for them. But, like their parents, the instruction has drawn them to it.

"I'm excited to have all padded floors because we'll be able to spar, which is something we can't do in this class," 13-year-old student Matthew Pate said.

"Cheryl's the best instructor I've ever had in my time doing martial arts," he said. "I'm excited to see what she's going to have us do once we move into a better facility."

Submit feedback, story ideas to

fast facts

Tae kwon do
by donation

When: Tuesday and Thursday, 4:30 p.m. to 5:10 p.m.

Where: First Baptist Church, 1234 Gunn Highway, Odessa

Note: The Community Fun and Fitness Center will be more than a home to martial arts. Included will be fitness classes for all ages, nutrition and diet classes, arts, dance, yoga and an Internet cafe for parents with kids in class. For more information about the future of the center or Cleveland's ongoing classes, call (813) 842-3202.

New community center in Odessa will offer a cheap fitness option 07/23/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 23, 2009 6:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rowdies shut out at Pittsburgh


    PITTSBURGH — The Rowdies lost their first USL game in nearly a month, 1-0 to Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

  2. LSU's Paul Mainieri defends FSU's Mike Martin; Gators play Friday


    OMAHA, Neb. — LSU coach Paul Mainieri says whether Florida State's Mike Martin ever wins a national championship should have no bearing on how his long career in college baseball is judged.

    MADE IT: Josh Watson beats the tag of Louisville catcher Colby Fitch during TCU’s 4-3 win in the College World Series.
  3. Lightning fans, don't get attached to your first-round draft picks

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — When Lightning GM Steve Yzerman announces his first-round pick tonight in the amateur draft at No. 14, he'll invite the prospect onto the stage for the once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) eludes  Montreal Canadiens left wing Phillip Danault (24) during the second period of Wednesday???‚??„?s (12/28/16) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman also has top-9 wing on his wish list

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Much has been made about the Lightning's interest in bolstering its blue line, even after last week's acquisition of defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev.

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman gestures as he speaks to the media about recent trades during a news conference before an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning, over the past few days, have traded goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, forward Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Valtteri Filppula to the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA101