The Boys & Girls Club of Tampa Bay is completely renovating and expanding the Winston Park Recreation Center, expanding it by 3,000 square feet. The renovations are made possible with a $2.5 million gift from Jeff and Penny Vinik, owners of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The new facility, called the Jeff and Penny Vinik Family Winston Park Boys & Girls Club, will include new tennis and basketball courts and a covered roller hockey rink. The interior will include a technology lab, game room, teen center, theater and kitchen that will open into a dining hall.
"To be able to make a difference in other people's lives, is there anything more fulfilling, more satisfactory than that?" Jeff Vinik said.
This comes years after the aging building was faced with closing its doors, Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller said.
"This facility was probably one of the ones we were looking at that was on the chopping block," Miller said.
The Winston Park Boys & Girls Club is in Miller's district, and he said in community meetings people pleaded with him to help save the facility.
"A young man came back here who had been a drug dealer," Miller said. "....he came back and talked about how important it was to have this facility here."
Chris Letsos, president and CEO of The Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, said the organization has seen similar revitalization projects reduce crime and help communities.
"That child is opening up and is trusting us, and we're seeing some amazing improvements," Letsos said.
He also said these renovations will provide more opportunities for children to spend time with the Hillsborough County deputies who volunteer at Boys & Girls Clubs each day, forming positive relationships at an early age.
"It's not only going to change lives, it's going to save thousands of lives," Letsos said.
The Winston Park Boys & Girls Club will close temporarily during construction. Those kids will most likely move to the Palm Harbor Boys & Girls Club during that time.
A firm timeline is not set for construction, Vinik said. But Letsos said the process should move as quickly as possible.