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Zephyrhills tennis center plans crawling along

Zephyrhills City Hall
By Robert Napper, Times Correspondent
Tuesday 11 September 2018 17.46

ZEPHYRHILLS — Excitement remains high over a proposed tennis center in Zephyrhills, but play on its professional-grade courts likely won’t begin soon.

City officials had hoped to begin construction on the Sarah Vande Berg Memorial Tennis Center earlier this year. Now a start date is up in the air as the city works to determine costs, finalize a transfer of land to Zephyrhills, plan roads and determine impact fees.

The city put the "cart before the horse" on the project from the beginning, City Manager Steve Spina told the Zephyrhills City Council Monday. Council members got a look at early architectural renderings of the facility, which they hope will come to fruition through a public/private partnership.

"There’s a lot of physical work to be done," Spina said.

In October 2017, Zephyrhills City Council members unanimously approved an agreement with Tennis Pro Florida and its owner — tennis guru Pascal Collard — to run the center. Collard has coached six Women’s Tennis Association-ranked players and is a former director of the renowned tennis program at Saddlebrook Tennis Academy in Wesley Chapel.

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The tennis center partnership is supposed to include the city, the developer of an adjacent subdivision and Collard.

The city plans to build the facility to professional standards, with design help from the U.S. Tennis Association, on nearly 5 acres on Dean Dairy Road at Eiland Boulevard.

The city-owned center will be next to the 167-acre District at Abbot’s Square subdivision, planned by CBD Real Estate Investment for 1,200 single-family and multifamily homes, duplexes and townhouses. CBD has pledged to donate land to the city for the center, and Collard will run it, according to the agreement reached last year.

Spina’s announcement that the city still needs to address numerous logistical elements of the center also provides time for council members to address dissent over the renderings they saw Monday night.

City Council member Jodi Wilkeson, an architect, expressed concern that initial design drawings do not align with the look of Zephyrhills’ city buildings, including its new library and City Hall.

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Council members asked for more drawings so they can consider other ideas, something Spina said would not further delay the project.

Cost also may be a concern. Last year’s construction estimate came in at $2.1 million, but an exact price has not been established, Spina said.

In other news, the council unanimously passed on first reading a $59.4 million budget for next year. It would keep property taxes at 6.34 mils, the same as this year’s rate. A mill represents $1 in tax for every $1,000 worth of a property’s assessed value, so owners of a property valued at $100,000 will pay $634 in city taxes next fiscal year.

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