This is the latest rendering for the NTRC expansion. The new additions are the lower rooms in yellow. (Image: Tampa Parks & Recreation)

The New Tampa Recreation Center (NTRC) expansion is, officially, a go.

Despite a number of obstacles over the years, including being dropped from the budget on more than one occasion, the Tampa City Council approved an additional $660,000 in funding on March 7 and voted 7-0 to award the contract to Valrico-based Phinazee and Granger Construction, Inc.

A groundbreaking is scheduled for Friday, April 12, at 10 a.m.

“There is no going back now,” said District 7 City Council member Luis Viera. “It 100 percent has been set off on its course.”

The NTRC’s 7,825-sq.-ft. expansion is expected to make the facility’s immensely popular gymnastics and dance programs more accessible to those currently on a waiting list that numbers in the thousands of names.

The expansion is expected to be completed around the end of 2019.

Paul Dial, the director of the City of Tampa’s Parks & Recreation Department, says a number of improvements will be made, but noted that three will make the most impact.

First, Dial says, one of the new rooms being designed will be for participants ages 6 years old and younger. 

“That will allow us to really focus on our efforts with them in a smaller setting, versus the large gymnasium, or gymnastics room, they learn in now,” he said. Not only will it create less distractions for the younger athletes, according to Dial, but it will free up more room for the older competitors in the existing areas.

Secondly, one of the additional rooms will double the area for the NTRC’s popular dance program. 

And thirdly, says Dial, another room is being developed that will be called the Training Box, which will have an emphasis on strength and conditioning and also feature a youth and adult component, the latter of which does not currently exist at the facility. “We think all three of these will really enhance the center,” Dial says. “We’re pretty excited about them.”

Although $1.9 million was approved in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget for the expansion, following a vocal effort by supporters from New Tampa and some contentious debate on the City Council, the cost estimates at the time proved to be too low compared to the bids the city received for the project.

Dial said rising costs for materials, such as steel, as well as higher prices due to a better economy, were to blame. “You never truly know the cost of a project until the bids come in,” he said.

Phinazee and Granger Construction, Inc.’s bid of $2,390,000 required additional funds — $660,000, or 27 percent of the original estimate — to be reallocated to cover the costs. Although two lower bids were rejected for errors, the Phinazee and Granger bid was the lowest of the seven others submitted.

Viera says the $660,000 came from a pool of funds set aside for projects that go over budget. “There’s red flags for something like that, when it requires additional money,” Viera said. “I was prepared for that. Let’s put it this way — was I worried? Yes. But was I actively worried something would happen and the project would be sunk? No.”

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