Tampa’s Liquid Asset

It’s long been axiomatic that Tampa’s waterfront was the city’s most underutilized asset. It was a good place to build a parking garage or a beer-can shaped office tower.

That attitude, mercifully, no longer prevails. The new art museum will incorporate a waterfront park and several eyesore, ad-hoc parking lots will morph into vista-enhancing green spaces.

But making a better-looking postcard is not the end. “We need to do a better job of connecting this river to the lives of people in Tampa,” recently stated Mayor Pam Iorio.

To that end, the city is partnering with the West Riverfront Neighborhood Association and the nonprofit Stewards Foundation of Tampa to develop the riverfront Tampa Water Sports Center. The city will provide the land just north of Tampa Prep for the 25,000-square-foot center, which will include a two-story boathouse. And thanks to Stewards, which will raise $2 million for the project, it will help accommodate crew teams — from northern universities as well as nearby high schools and the University of Tampa — plus provide for community-based kayaking, canoeing and water-safety programs.

And thanks to this progressive partnership, Tampa will further cement its reputation as an attractive winter get-away/rowing venue for Northern crews that is worth millions in economic impact. It will also give a lot more local kids an opportunity to participate in rowing — one of the country’s fastest-growing sports — by converting the Hillsborough River into a wide-awake zone of community participation.

Those wishing to contribute by purchasing naming rights, can contact Stewards’ Vice President of Development, Fundraising and Contributions Denny Antrim at 205-4013. Already Bright House Networks is paying five figures to put its name on an observation deck. What’s available ranges from canoes ($1,000) and 8-person shells (approximately $35,000) to the entire sports center ($750,000).

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