By Matt Wiley

There are very few, if any at all, quiet days at the New Tampa Recreation Center in Tampa Palms. Most afternoons, whether it is out front facing Commerce Park Dr. on the center’s large playground, around back at the cement skatepark or inside in the gymnastics area, the sounds of the community’s youth taking part in fun, physical activities can almost always be heard. And now, the City of Tampa has plans to make it even louder, by almost doubling the center’s size.

Since it opened in 2008, the New Tampa Recreation Center has been an incredibly popular destination for the youth of the New Tampa and nearby communities. The center already features more than 19,500 sq. ft. of space inside and provides numerous activities, including tumbling and gymnastics, as well as skateboarding behind the center and multi-purpose fields in the adjacent New Tampa Community Park outside.

“It’s been so popular the past couple of years,” says the City of Tampa’s Parks and Recreation Department director Greg Bayor. “We’re averaging about 7,500 participants per year in enrolled programs. We’re really squeezed for space.”

To that end, the city currently is in the design phase of adding an additional 14,000 sq. ft. to the already- bustling facility. Bayor say this massive, $1.5-million addition will provide more gymnasium space, more locker rooms, multi-purpose rooms, fitness and wellness spaces and, most important, more storage.

“It sounds trivial,” Bayor says. “But, right now, we have to store things in rooms that should be used for activities.”

The fitness and wellness space will offer a place for parents and members of the community alike to work out. It will even have its own rock-climbing wall, something Bayor says the city currently is lacking. However, he doesn’t think that a fitness center will affect the business at the New Tampa YMCA located across Bruce. B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. on Compton Dr., or local health clubs/gyms.

“If you look at the YMCA, and you go, literally, 500 yards down the road, you have the (Compton Park at) Tampa Palms neighborhood swimming pool, and there’s no conflict there,” he says.

Right now, the rec center is mostly focused on gymnasium space and the 40 acres of sports fields in the Community Park behind it, as well as the 15,000-sq.-ft. skatepark, but the expansion will make the center more multi-purpose and offer even more for the community.

But, the expansion is still a little ways down the road. Bayor says that the design phase will likely take up to six months, and construction for the fully funded project will probably not begin until late spring or summer of 2013. “We want to let people in the New Tampa area know that we recognize that they are a part of Tampa,” Bayor says. “And, here is this wonderful facility.”

For more information about the New Tampa Recreation Center, including programs, costs and times, call 975-2794, or stop by at 17302 Commerce Park Blvd.

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