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YMCA a hot spot for the summer

The gray and blue bus pulls into the Lansbrook subdivision early in the morning, loaded with children. It disgorges its load and hits the road again.

And again. And again. And again.

Every morning, 250 children from East Lake, Tarpon Springs, Oldsmar, Palm Harbor and Countryside pour into the Family YMCA of North Pinellas to take swimming lessons at what used to be Lansbrook's pool and tennis center.

Lansbrook donated the 15-year-old facilities to the Y in September. For 10 years, the Y operated out of rented space in a fitness center in Tarpon Springs, and its programs were scattered throughout North Pinellas. But now, with many of them at the Lansbrook site, the Y has a flood of customers this summer for basketball leagues, tennis instruction and day camps as well as swimming lessons.

"Finally, we have our own home," director Roger Jacobs said. "That has a lot to do with solidifying who we are and what we do."

The home still needs a lot of work, but that's well on its way, according to YMCA officials.

Even before they got the deed to the property, officials from the Y talked about improvements: installing lights and new surfaces for the tennis courts, adding basketball hoops, heating the pool and putting a bubble on top for the winter months, and eventually building an adult fitness center with community meeting rooms.

They expected to do the work in three phases over five years, and figured they would have to raise $1.2-million in donations.

Now, instead of completing the work by 1997, the YMCA is shooting for completion by 1996, said Steve Tarver, director of the Family YMCA's parent organization, Suncoast Family YMCA.

Lights for the tennis courts went up last week, and the resurfacing work should be done by mid-July, Jacobs said.

"We now have 60 kids in youth tennis classes," he said. "That's going to soar."

Jacobs said he hopes to have a heated pool for everyone to swim in by this winter, at a cost of $35,000 to $40,000. But the bubble might have to wait another year, he said.

Meanwhile, the fund-raising for the first and second phases of the project is complete. The Y had about $35,000 to begin the work, Tarver said. It has gotten cash and pledges worth $20,000, plus another $20,000 from Lansbrook, which has promised to match the Y's fund-raising efforts with $1 for every $3 donated. The organization plans to borrow another $45,000, to which the Lansbrook match will add another $15,000, Tarver said.

"We're very pleased with the way this is going," Tarver said.

It doesn't hurt, either, that the organization no longer is paying rent on its old facilities in Tarpon Springs, said Joe Marteski, who is leading the fund-raising for the Y.

Y officials interviewed five professional fund-raising companies but in the end decided to do all the work themselves. That way, Jacobs said, every dollar contributed to the Y drive goes to the project, not to overhead costs.

So far, the drive has concentrated on rounding up corporate sponsors instead of asking for donations from the community. But that will come, too, Marteski said.

For this summer, though, the Y is concentrating on pulling the community in to see what its new home looks like, and maybe take a quick splash in the pool.

FAMILY YMCA

The Family YMCA of North Pinellas is at 4550 Village Center Drive in the Lansbrook subdivision off East Lake Road. It offers swimming, basketball, tennis and summer day camps. For information, call 785-8333.

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