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Recreation to meet education

The Tampa City Council approved a partnership with the Hillsborough County School Board on Thursday that clears the way to build a 40-acre recreational center near Freedom High and Liberty Middle School.

The move transfers the park land from the School Board to the city and officially recognizes a collaboration that started three years ago when the idea for the park was introduced. The School Board is expected to approve its end of the partnership at an April 9 meeting.

Construction crews have been working on the site since last year work to ensure that the park opens when the two schools do this August.

The $5-million center, at 17302 Commerce Park Blvd., will include two youth soccer fields, two adult soccer fields, four softball fields and parking for more than 200 cars. City officials plan to add restrooms, bleachers and additional lighting later.

"We're providing the citizens of New Tampa with a recreational and an educational campus together," said Jack Davis, the school district's assistant superintendent of operations.

Separately, the city has hired the schools' architectural and construction firms to design and build a 30,000-square-foot Municipal Services facility.

The building, now in an early design stage, is intended as satellite office for city services. New Tampa residents will be able to process building and inspection permits, pay utility bills and hold meetings in some of the building's activity spaces.

Officials are considering a small police post for two or three officers and a drive-through window that could handle many services offered inside the building, if funds are available.

_ John Balz can be reached at (813) 269-5313 or at