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Midnight basketball facilities in Tampa to expand

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

In an effort to provide more positive opportunities for teenagers to engage in Tampa this summer, Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced last month that he would extend the hours that park facilities would remain open, as well as provide free “Rec Cards” for participating kids.

City officials announced on Monday that beginning tonight, a total of nine park and recreation facilities will now stay open until midnight seven days a week. As of now, four such facilities have expanded their operating hours on Friday and Saturday evening — in Copeland Park, Springhill, Jackson Heights and on Dr. MLK Jr. Blvd. Officials say that those facilities have seen an upswing in activity, with no negative incidents to report.

Buckhorn and the Tampa Police Department have undertaken several actions to respond to the upswing in violence in the city in 2015. Last year through the first six month of the year there were 12 murders. This year there have been 21 though the first half of the year.

The TPD announced last month that they will begin to put more officers on the street in East and West Tampa, in neighborhoods that need it the most.

But the city is offering more than just increased security.

“With the expanded summer programming, new extended hours, and free Rec Cards, more kids than ever before will be able to have a safe place to play this summer where they can avoid the lure of the streets,” Buckhorn said in a statement. “We are incredibly encouraged by the number of children already participating, but we have capacity to accommodate more kids. Today is an important day for many families in our community, and what I hope will be a turning point to allow more kids to have a safe and productive summer.”

These are sites that will stay open until midnight now:

  • Copeland Park Community Center, 11001 North 15th Street
  • Cyrus Greene Community Center and Pool, 2101 East Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Boulevard
  • Desoto Park Community Center and Spicola Pool, 2617 Corrine Street
  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, 2200 North Oregon Avenue
  • Grant Park Activity Center, 3724 North 54th Street
  • Gwendolyn Miller Community Center, 6410 North 32nd Street
  • Jackson Heights Community Center, 3310 East Lake Avenue
  • Springhill Community Center, 1000 East Eskimo Avenue
  • Williams Park Activity Center and Pool,4362 East Osborne Avenue

It’s not just basketball that will take place in the later hours at these facilities. There will also be indoor movie screenings and swimming pools will remain open.

There will be both extra duty TPD officers as well as contract security in place at every location keeping the peace. And city officials say they will provide free snacks to all participating youth.

The city is also offering free “Rec Cards” to participating youth between 13-19 years of age. They can be picked up at any of the above listed parks after 6 p.m., or by calling 813-274-8615.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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