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Disputed golfers clubhouse plan to face review

(ran SS edition of Metro & State)

The City Council agrees to promote discussion of the Rogers Park design, which some black residents find offensive.

The latest controversy over the Rogers Park Golf Course may fizzle out before it gathers more steam.

The Tampa City Council approved two resolutions Thursday designed to have black residents, officials of the Tampa Sports Authority and the city meet to iron out concerns over the design of the course's clubhouse.

Many of the same black residents who fought last year to keep the city from turning management of the course over to a private organization have voiced their opposition to the design of the course's new clubhouse.

They said the design recalls the plantation era of Florida and does not offer enough space for tournament award ceremonies.

They also said the weather vane atop the building, depicted in drawings as a small, black golfing figure, was offensive. However, the actual weather vane is a copper-colored golfer holding a club aloft after a swing.

Led by James Ransom, grandson of the course's namesake, G.D. Rogers, community members took their concerns Thursday to the City Council.

"You own the property," Ransom said. "There may be something you can do to help move this process along."

But council members were wary of telling the Sports Authority, which manages Rogers Park and the city's other public courses, what to do. Sports Authority Executive Director Henry Saavedra said changing the clubhouse design will push its opening back at least three months from the scheduled date of March 2001.

"I'm not getting in a fight," City Council Chairman Charlie Miranda said. "This is not my fight. I operate within my scope. I let others operate within their scope."

Ultimately, though, the City Council did decide that the fortunes of the course were within its scope.

Council members first approved a motion by Bob Buckhorn to have Ransom, mayoral assistant Ron Rotella and Saavedra meet before the Sports Authority discusses the issue again on Monday. Members then approved a motion by Rose Ferlita to have the Sports Authority "sincerely deliberate in their decisionmaking in an effort to promote racial relations."

Saavedra said he, Rotella, Ransom and Sports Authority Chairman David Mechanik will meet sometime today to discuss the clubhouse redesign. Concerned community members also plan to meet at 6:30 p.m. today at the 34th Street Church of God.

Otis Anthony, the former mayoral aide who opposed the privatization push last year, said Ferlita's motion got to the heart of black concerns. The land the course sits on was once the only place blacks could go for recreation, and Anthony told council members that black residents feel they have a special connection to it and the course.

"We don't have that partnership," Anthony said. "That's our problem."