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Construction work is for homes, not playing fields

The dirt-moving near Pride Elementary is for the second phase of Meadowcreek, a 350-lot subdivision in Cross Creek.

Crews are moving mounds of dirt across from Pride Elementary School, but it has nothing to do with construction of a future county park next door.

Homes, not playing fields, are in the works for the land off Kinnan Street, according to the developer.

MI Homes has started construction of the second phase of Meadowcreek, a 350-lot subdivision in Cross Creek. The development is adjacent to the park and the school but won't connect with them, said division president Fred Sikorski.

The earth-moving puzzled school officials when it began a few weeks ago. A maintenance worker suspected the piles of dirt were for the park, but county officials confirmed it wasn't.

"We haven't (started) anything," said Peter Fowler, a manager of the county's Park and Recreation Department.

The county plans to build three fields, a small recreation building, a playground and a parking lot on about 12-acres across from the school. The school district traded the county the park land for a smaller, undevelopable tract to the south.

County parks staff met with local athletic groups last month to go over plans for the park, which will cost $600,000 to $1-million. The county says it has no money for the park until 2005, but has promised to clear the site for practice fields when crews have the time.

Fowler said he was waiting for representatives of the soccer, football and baseball groups to contact him about starting the work. The soccer teams may need the space when the season starts this summer, but he had not heard from anyone.

Athletic groups have told the county they want as many fields as they can get on the site. To make it fair, they asked for one for each sport.

Demand for fields has grown considerably as more people have moved into New Tampa. Every season, groups scramble to find places to practice and play, usually renting land at schools and neighborhood parks.

Representatives have said three practice fields would help, but not solve, the area's shortage.

During recent county budget hearings, Commissioner Jim Norman said New Tampa needs about 40-acres to build an adequate youth sports facility. He suggested land near Cross Creek Boulevard or Morris Bridge Road, but has not found a site.

_ Susan Thurston can be reached at (813) 226-3463 or thurstonsptimes.com.

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