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Clubhouse stirs new wrangle

A leader who fought last year to keep Rogers Park Golf Course under city control now thinks the "plantation" design of the new clubhouse is insensitive to blacks.

Black residents who succeeded in keeping Rogers Park Golf Course from being privatized last year are gathering for a new battle. This time, the design of the clubhouse and the weather vane that will stand atop it has sparked anger.

James Ransom, who led the community group that kept the city from turning management of the course over to the YMCA, said the design of the clubhouse recalls memories of the plantation era in Florida. And the weather vane, he said, looks like a lawn jockey.

"Some people actually called it a plantation house with a lawn jockey on top," said Ransom, who plans to take his concerns before the City Council this morning. A community meeting is also planned for Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the 34th Street Church of God.

Henry Saavedra, executive director of the Tampa Sports Authority, which manages Rogers Park and the city's other public courses, said Ransom is only upset because he wasn't given control over the design of the clubhouse.

"There are a lot of real issues in this community _ crime, transportation," Saavedra said. "For someone as articulate as Mr. Ransom to waste his time on a copper weather vane is a real shame."

Rogers Park became the subject of an intense, fractious debate last year when the city reached a tentative agreement with the YMCA to have the group pay for much-needed repairs and assume management of the course. Black residents, recalling the days when the land the course sits on was the only place blacks could go for recreation, vociferously opposed the plan. They argued that the city was turning its back on its responsibility to make sure the TSA managed the course properly.

Opposition to the plan drew scores to community meetings where Tampa Mayor Dick Greco, who pushed for the plan as the best way to get course improvements, was blasted as a racist. He had said there must be "something wrong" with those who didn't see the wisdom of the plan.

Residents took their case to the City Council, which would have had to approve the plan. When a majority of them spoke out against it, Greco relented, deciding to keep management of the course in the TSA's hands while paying for upgrades with money loaned to the Sports Authority by the city.

Those upgrades include a new source of water for irrigation, new greens, new tees and a new clubhouse.

Harry Howard, a black architect working with the Sports Authority, drew up plans for the clubhouse, which were presented to community members in June.

The building has six squared columns and a covered driveway with a weather vane on top.

Producing more designs is costly and time-consuming, Saavedra said, adding that he has met with Ransom and other community members several times in the past few months to discuss the clubhouse design.

That design has already been approved by a subcommittee of the authority's board of directors. The entire board will vote on the design at an authority meeting Monday.

Ransom said Sports Authority officials have done plenty of talking about the design, and very little listening.

"We shared with them the issue," said Ransom, grandson of the course's namesake, G.D. Rogers. "They have no concern. The level of disrespect and insensitivity is incredible."

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