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Tampa to expand rec center weekend hours, give teens free rec cards

TAMPA — With school starting next week, City Hall plans to spend $100,000 to keep recreation centers open on weekends and provide teens with free recreation cards.

The city extended its "Stay and Play" recreation program, which started in June in response to an outbreak of gun-related violence that resulted in 18 homicides, four of them of teenagers, in the first half of the year. The number of killings has since risen to 23.

Since June, a total of 15,231 kids have taken part in "Stay and Play" programs with no violence at any of the nine participating centers.

"Good numbers," said Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who announced the extension of the program Tuesday. "We gave kids a choice to be a part of a safe, productive and fun environment," and it worked, reducing "potentially violent situations in our streets this summer."

This fall, five recreation centers will be open 10 a.m. until at least 6 p.m. on weekends. Before, they had either not been open or had shorter hours on Saturdays and Sundays. They are:

• Copeland Park Community Center, 11001 N 15th St.

• Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, 2200 N Oregon Ave.

• Grant Park Activity Center, 3724 N 54th St.

• Jackson Heights Community Center, 3310 E Lake Ave.

• Springhill Community Center, 1000 E Eskimo Ave.

The city's plan for the fall does not entail keeping the rec centers open until midnight, which was one component of the Stay and Play program.

Also this summer, 1,258 teenagers signed up for free rec cards, an offer that officials said will continue. By comparison, in the year before the program began, a total of 1,658 rec cards, which typically cost $15, were bought for teens.

Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times.

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