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WESLEY CHAPEL FINALLY HAS PARK TO CALL ITS OWN

A trip to the park just took on a whole new meaning in Wesley Chapel. The county's 120-acre district park opened last week with little fanfare, but much appreciation.

The $20-million park, being built in stages, includes 10 athletic fields, playground equipment, a walking/bicycling trail and basketball courts. Aesthetic touches include decorative streetlights. An indoor recreation center and swimming pool will be built later as more impact fee dollars are collected.

Located at the southwest corner of Boyette and Overpass roads, the park is near both new subdivisions and old Pasco characterized by the rural mobile homes nearby.

There are no football goal posts or soccer nets just yet. Those come from the individual youth sports leagues, but the scoreboards are adorned with signs for a sports beverage and the playground already is getting heavy use. Last week, crews continued to manicure the grass fields in anticipation of football, baseball, soccer and lacrosse teams surging to the complex.

It is a highly anticipated quality-of-life improvement for booming Wesley Chapel, which was once little more than an interstate exit. The community has been without a county park because its then rural status meant it missed out on a county program 20 years ago that built or expanded facilities in Dade City, Zephyrhills, Land O'Lakes, Holiday and Hudson.

Until now, its budding athletes traveled frequently. Youth baseball players go to leagues in Land O'Lakes or Zephyrhills, soccer and football teams play games at a high school, but practice space is limited.

One youth football team traveled to a city of Tampa park in New Tampa for a place to practice.

Kickoff is Aug. 18 with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting and the first youth football games.

Fortunately, the county ensured no one faced an immediate penalty flag.

Competing youth football programs both sought to use the new complex.

Though field space is not a legitimate issue, attempting to share concession space and food inventories can be problematic. Still, the county told the leagues to share the fields.

It is the correct call.

Expecting children and their families to go elsewhere in order to retain exclusivity for one organization is an imprudent use of a new community asset.

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