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Proposed center may have ties to Y

Community organizers hope the Carrollwood community center can be county-owned, yet run by YMCA personnel.

Project leaders have not yet settled on a place to build the new Carrollwood community center. But they already have a good idea of who they want to have manage it.

Members of the Carrollwood Area Association of Neighbors have held preliminary discussions with the Tampa Metropolitan YMCA about how the non-profit organization might become a partner in the $3-million project.

But instead of functioning as a satellite branch of Northdale's Bob Sierra YMCA, the proposed facility would be an independent cultural center owned by Hillsborough County, yet managed and maintained by YMCA employees.

"Everything I've heard as we've discussed this all sounds good to me," said Steve Bowers, director of the Bob Sierra YMCA. "We have not ironed out any details. All of this is in its infancy."

As they work toward a management agreement, CAAN members hope the YMCA will play an even bigger role in the center's development.

A representative from the Carrollwood group said it plans to ask the YMCA to float bonds so the community center could be built sooner than 2003, when the community investment tax money will come through.

"There are several ways the Y could help us in terms of planning, designing, managing and financing for this community center," said John Pare, a member of the CAAN planning committee. "We will hire the YMCA's professional management experience."

Tom Jones, president of CAAN, said the group would seek an arrangement with the YMCA similar to what the organization has done in Town 'N Country area.

In Town 'N Country, the county commission approved a deal to build a county-assisted YMCA at Waters Avenue west of Sheldon Road. It also signed off on a policy that allows outside groups to manage large county centers.

The YMCA will finance the project with tax-exempt bonds. The county then would use future impact fees to pay back the YMCA. The center also would get $2.1-million in Community Investment Tax funds already appropriated to Town 'N Country in 2003.

"It suits their purposes and it could suit ours," Jones said.

The county has earmarked $3-million in CIT funds for the development of a Carrollwood community center in 2003. At the time those funds were approved, the amount was based on an estimated $1-million purchase of St. Mark's Episcopal Church and $2-million for renovations.

Although St. Mark's no longer is considered an option, the money will be used to build at another site that has not been determined.

The owner of Carrollwood Village Golf & Tennis Club has offered to sell a portion of land at the private country club. But organizers are against locating the center at the club because of the impression of exclusivity that it might give to people who are not club members or who live outside Carrollwood Village.

So far, the search committee thinks the most viable location is 50 acres of land between Lowell and Casey roads. That deal would require the county to negotiate with three separate landowners for a purchase now estimated at $2-million.

"The rationale for us believing that the Lowell Road site remains the best site is it is in the exact center of the geographical area that we consider Carrollwood," said John Miley, a member of the committee to build the center.

Miley said a chief requirement in any partnership with the YMCA is that YMCA managers work under the direction of a board of governors made up of Carrollwood area residents.

The YMCA's management cost would probably be paid by user fees, county money and donations from the Carrollwood community.

The group is adamant that the center's focus be cultural and educational rather than athletic. Weight rooms and swimming pools will be replaced by computer rooms, a stage for theatrical performances and rooms for hobbies that appeal to senior citizens and kids.

"There are a number of sports facilities around and we don't need that to be duplicated," Pare said.

"Members of the community have a certain idea of what we want this center to be used for," he said. "We want that community control to make sure it ends up being what the community wants and not what the county wants."

_ To reach Tim Grant call 226-3471 or e-mail him at grantsptimes.com.

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