YMCAlogoBy Tamas Mondovics

The Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA received a major financial shot in the arm last month in support of its Big Bend Rd. facility currently under construction and nearing completion of the first phase of its three-phase project.

A community philanthropist and long-time friend of the Y has pledged $5 million toward the family facility, located on 9650 Old Big Bend Rd. in Gibsonton.

“We are extremely grateful to this cherished Y donor for the continued support throughout the years,” said Tampa Y President and CEO Tom Looby. “The donor wanted to invest in a cause dedicated to building character and confidence in our children, enabling families to spend quality time together, and providing a supportive environment where everyone – regardless of age, income or background – can come together to improve their quality of life. Thanks to this most recent gift, we are closer to building a safe place that offers much-needed services to an underserved part of Hillsborough County. We’re still looking for additional donors to help complete the facility.”

Y officials said that construction crews are putting the finishing touches on the first phase, which includes five grassy, multipurpose athletic fields, a covered basketball court, playground, picnic pavilion, a one-mile fitness trail and parking lot.

While the recent, most-generous donation helped to push the project closer to becoming a reality, Y officials emphasized that the association still has $3 million to raise in donations to cover the total $10 million cost for construction of remaining future phases, which consist of an aquatics center as well as a 30,000-sq.-ft. family facility.

With additional capital fundraising success, the new Y could complete construction in late 2016 or early 2017.

Since its proposed construction, the Family Y at Big Bend Road has promised area residents and members to strengthen Southern Hillsborough County, through economic development creating more than 125 jobs, the reduction of drowning cases, improved high school graduation rates, as well as healthy living habits by reducing the obesity epidemic in adults and children.

“With school out during the summer, many kids don’t get enough physical activity or learning—a critical gap the Y is addressing,” said Y spokesperson Lalita Llerena. “We want to ensure kids in our camp program go home with so much excitement for all they’ve accomplished and enjoyed that they can’t wait to come back the next day.”

To learn more, contact Senior Program Director Dan Ribas at 436-5890 or dan.ribas@tampaymca.org.