After years of being the bridesmaid and never the bride when it came to expanding the New Tampa Recreation Center in Tampa Palms, the Tampa City Council seems to have finally brought the project to the altar.
At its meeting on March 15, the city issued a resolution approving a work order to officially begin designing the NTRC expansion.
According to the resolution, the City of Tampa will pay FleischmanGarcia Architects and Planners, A.I.A., P.A. $99,800 “for professional services in connection with the New Tampa Recreation Center addition.”
It also issued another resolution to pay $49,400 to David Conner & Associates, Inc., to begin similar work on the proposed 5-acre sensory-friendly park in Tampa Palms.
“It was a good day for New Tampa,’’ said District 7 councilman Luis Viera, who rallied community support for both projects, helping get them in the city budget that was passed by Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn.
Plans to expand the NTRC had been in previous budgets before, but were somehow removed from those budgets before they were passed.
“In years past, we’ve gotten through some of the steps in the process, but this is the furthest we’ve gotten,” Viera said. “I’m happy to see the ball is rolling.”
The $1.7-million expansion project is expected to ease the overburdened and popular gymnastics and dance programs at the NTRC, which have more than 800 students participating and just as many on waiting lists.
The difficulties area parents have faced in getting their children into the program spurred much of the civic involvement this past year in the city’s budget process.
According to the proposal from Kevin Smith, senior vice president at FleischmanGarcia, his firm plans to utilize as much as 90 percent of the construction documents from the original planned addition in 2012, as well as using many of the same engineers from that project.
The project will be a 1-story addition to the existing rec center, of roughly 5,000-8,500-sq.-ft., depending upon budget limitations. That space will include areas for gymnastics, two multi-purpose areas, restrooms, storage, a staff office and an HVAC upgrade to the chiller system.
The NTRC currently has nearly 20,000 sq. ft. of space, with 14,000 of that dedicated to its gymnastics area.
As for the sensory-friendly park —which will be located behind the B.J.’s Wholesale Club on Commerce Palms Dr. in Tampa Palms — $90,000 was allocated in the city budget for Phase 1, which is Design & Development.
More than half of that will go to David Connor & Associates, which is proposing designing the park to perhaps include an inclusive playground with Autism-focused elements, a dog park, picnic shelter and other site furnishings.
The design firm says it will conduct its due diligence on any environmental issues, and then hold a community design meeting to gain input from residents.
After coming up with some preliminary designs, another community design meeting will be held before a final design concept is submitted, along with preliminary cost estimates.