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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved. 


 

December 16, 2016  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Glazer JCC opening makes history

By BOB FRYER Jewish Press


Surrounded by state and local officials, major donors and Federation leadership, Bryan and Shanna Glazer cut the ribbon, officially opening the new Bryan Glazer Family JCC at the refurbished Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in West Tampa. Surrounded by state and local officials, major donors and Federation leadership, Bryan and Shanna Glazer cut the ribbon, officially opening the new Bryan Glazer Family JCC at the refurbished Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in West Tampa. Mostly sunny skies with cool breezes made things comfortable for more than 350 people who gathered outdoors for what is arguably the biggest event in more than 20 years for the Tampa Jewish community – the official opening of the Bryan Glazer Family Jewish Community Center in West Tampa.

It took a multi-million dollar renovation of the historic Fort Homer Hesterly Armory to transform the aging, leaky structure – vacant since 2004 – into the showcase JCC that officials say will serve as a model for others throughout the nation.

Once built-out, the JCC will cost “north of $30 million,” said Jack Ross, outgoing executive director of the JCC.


Above, the Glazers with infant son Sawyer become the first family to swipe their membership card into the new Jewish Community Center, which is named in their honor. The historic armory was transformed into the JCC after two years of construction. At left is the JCC’s modernistic entrance added to the 1940s art deco building. The entrance bears the name of Jeffery and Penny Vinik, who donated $1.5 million to the project. Vinik is owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning. 
Photos by BRAD HALL STUDIOS Above, the Glazers with infant son Sawyer become the first family to swipe their membership card into the new Jewish Community Center, which is named in their honor. The historic armory was transformed into the JCC after two years of construction. At left is the JCC’s modernistic entrance added to the 1940s art deco building. The entrance bears the name of Jeffery and Penny Vinik, who donated $1.5 million to the project. Vinik is owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Photos by BRAD HALL STUDIOS The ribbon cutting took place on Dec. 8, exactly 75 years from the date the armory was dedicated in 1941– one day after Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor. It was also exactly 20 years from the Dec. 8, 1996 date that the Tampa Jewish Federation dedicated its 21-acre campus off Gunn Highway in Citrus Park, now known as the Maureen and Douglas Cohn Jewish Community Campus.

“Welcome to the official revival of this magnificent landmark building … and the launch of its exciting new chapter as the Bryan Glazer Family JCC. What an incredible project and what a promising future,” said Tampa Federation President Rochelle Walk.

“Over the years,” Walk said, “we’ve said that this new community center was going to be a ‘game-changer.’ That it would help ‘transform’ our community. That it would be a ‘beacon of light’ that contributed to a renaissance of West Tampa. That it would be a truly ‘magical place.’”

Walk predicted all of those things will be achieved with the opening of the Glazer JCC.

The genesis for a new JCC was a 2011 demographics study that showed the greatest concentration of Jews in Hillsborough County was in South Tampa.

In 2012, the Federation agreed to a deal with the Florida National Guard to study the feasibility of the project and then entered into a 99-year lease for use of the armory building and 5-acre tract surrounding it, with an option to purchase at a later date. The actual construction has been ongoing for two years.


City of Tampa arts staffers Kathy Penia, left, and Sarah Rowe demonstrate a glass fusion project. 
Photo by Bob Fryer City of Tampa arts staffers Kathy Penia, left, and Sarah Rowe demonstrate a glass fusion project. Photo by Bob Fryer Even before the search committee settled on the armory site, Bryan Glazer, co-chairman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, had been lobbying for a new JCC in South Tampa and said he would make a significant financial commitment to make it happen.

While the new JCC is actually in West Tampa, that was not seen as an obstacle since the building is only 1,760 feet north of Kennedy Boulevard, an imaginary line separating South Tampa from parts north.

It turned out the financial commitment from Glazer and wife, Shanna, was $4 million and that is why the new facility bears the family name. It is also why, with a $1.5 million donation, the grand new entrance to the building bears the name of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and wife Penny. Other donations of $1 million secured naming rights to the Diane and Leon Mezrah Family Aquatic Center and the Roberta M. Golding Center for the Visual Arts, which are part of the new JCC.


Marc Hussey makes jewelry in one of the studios. 
Photo by Karen Dawkins Marc Hussey makes jewelry in one of the studios. Photo by Karen Dawkins Glazer said that when he was first pushing for a new JCC, he envisioned when it opened he would buy a single membership. But during the transformation of the armory into the multi-faceted JCC, Glazer married and became a father. He, wife Shanna, and 2½-month-old Sawyer, all with a family membership, were on hand for the ribbon cutting. “This is a building that will build memories for so many families,” said Glazer. “JCCs have always been about families coming together and creating memories and that will happen here.”


A Rough Rider unveils a plaque honoring David Scher and Gary Gould for their work on the new JCC as Federation President Rochelle Walk reads the inscription. 
Photo by Bob Fryer A Rough Rider unveils a plaque honoring David Scher and Gary Gould for their work on the new JCC as Federation President Rochelle Walk reads the inscription. Photo by Bob Fryer Ross, who served as executive director of the Tampa JCC during the process of acquiring the armory site, as well as planning and construction of the Glazer JCC, thanked the many involved in making the new JCC a reality. Then he listed many of the new components of the Glazer JCC:

• Arts center – Ross said it is “an exemplary fine arts program operated by the city of Tampa Department of Parks & Recreation, in conjunction with the Tampa Museum of Art in partnership with the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners.” The center includes potters wheels, a variety of kilns, stations for making jewelry and glassworks, an area for artists to paint, and will offer a variety of classes for kids and adults beginning Jan. 9. In the middle of the arts center is a fireplace that once warmed military officers at the armory.


The armory’s seal emblazoned with the motto (Never a Step Backward) were retained as part of the new JCC. 
Photo by Brad Hall Studios The armory’s seal emblazoned with the motto (Never a Step Backward) were retained as part of the new JCC. Photo by Brad Hall Studios • Premier event center – The center can accommodate the full spectrum of corporate, social and life events, including weddings, b’nai mitzvahs, film festivals, plays, and concerts in configurations that can serve groups as small as 25 to more than 1,000 guests. This facility includes a kitchen capable of serving hundreds. Ross noted that Bloomin Brands, the Tampa-based company that operates Outback Steakhouse and other restaurant chains, had been running A La Carte Event Pavilion in the Dana Shores area. The company donated all the kitchen equipment, furnishings, dishes and glassware from A La Carte and the JCC hired that facility’s executive chef and director of sales and marketing. The donation represented a value of more than $300,000, Ross said.


Bloomin Brands contributed ovens and other equipment from Al A Carte Pavilion for the new JCC kitchen. Bloomin Brands contributed ovens and other equipment from Al A Carte Pavilion for the new JCC kitchen. • Indoor/outdoor kosher café – This facility will serve light meals, snacks and liquid refreshments and is handy to the fitness and aquatic centers.

• Fitness center – Ross said the new JCC has Tampa Bay’s most comprehensive, state-of-the-art fitness offerings with more than 50,000 square feet of health and wellness space. This includes rooms for spin classes, areas chock full of exercise equipment, spa and massage facilities and men’s, women’s and family locker rooms. An elevated track provides a view below to a gymnasium for basketball and other sports.


A kosher café is located near the aquatic center. 
Photo by Brad Hall Studios A kosher café is located near the aquatic center. Photo by Brad Hall Studios • Aquatic center – This includes a competition size, eight-lane lap pool, zero entry recreation pool, a splash pad for children, cabanas and outdoor grill space.

• New offices for Tampa Jewish Family Services – The agency, which also will retain offices at the Cohn Campus, will provide social services such as a food bank, counseling and various types of assessments for those in need who are closer to the new JCC.

• Programming for people of all ages – The JCC will offer a variety of programs and events for people from preschoolers to senior citizens.

• Meeting rooms – These rooms have full IT and audio/visual capabilities.

• The Florida-Israel Business Accelerator (FIBA) – This project is aimed at assisting Israeli and Florida based startups to launch and succeed in the U.S., opening markets to Israeli firms as they make Tampa their U.S. corporate headquarters. Ross is stepping down from his post as executive director of the JCCs and will serve in that role for FIBA. Already 12 Israeli firms have applied to be the first group of companies to use the facility, and FIBA has contracts with Mac- Dill Air Force Base to work with some of these companies on military projects. Ross said the first group of Israeli companies will begin work here in February. In exchange for use of the space, the Tampa JCCs and Federation will receive a small financial stake in the companies, and should they prosper, it could be an important revenue stream for the JCCs and Federation.


The aquatic center features 8-lane competition swimming pool and zero-entry recreational pool. The aquatic center features 8-lane competition swimming pool and zero-entry recreational pool. The JCC is opening with about 2,500 members with plans to stabilize membership at about 3,500. Costs for memberships range from $47 a month for youths and seniors, $59 a month for senior couples, $89 for two-adult households and $159 a month for families. Call the JCC at (813) 575-5900 for other prices.

One major component at the Glazer JCC site still not built is a JCC preschool, slated to go up next to the aquatic center and with a targeted capacity of 154 children. Including the preschool costs, it is expected the total cost of the new JCC will top $30 million, but the preschool will not be built until an ongoing fundraising campaign secures money for the project, Ross said. To date, he said, more than $22 million has been raised for the armory transformation project.

The children’s splash pad is one of the many amenities at the Mezrah Family Aquatics Center, which also features cabanas and barbecue grills.The children’s splash pad is one of the many amenities at the Mezrah Family Aquatics Center, which also features cabanas and barbecue grills.
In addition to large and small donations from individuals, the state provided $7 million in funding, with $1 million for the business accelerator and $6 for construction of the JCC. The county government provided $1.3 million in funding and the city of Tampa provided a lot of help in getting the project built, Ross said.

Many parking spaces on campus were blocked off for the ribbon cutting ceremony and folks found parking along nearby neighborhood streets. Ross said for large events, the JCC has agreements with valet parking companies which have secured permission from residents in the neighborhood for parking, and that at times parking can also take place across the street at the Vila Brothers recreational park.


Fitness center staffers gather in one of several exercise rooms. The center has more than 50,000 square feet of health and wellness space. 
Photo by Brad Hill Studios Fitness center staffers gather in one of several exercise rooms. The center has more than 50,000 square feet of health and wellness space. Photo by Brad Hill Studios On hand at the event, in full uniform, were members of the First U.S. Voluntary Cavalry, better known as the Rough Riders. That is because years before the armory was built, Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders camped in 1898 on the same grounds before sailing to Cuba with Roosevelt to win the Spanish-American War.

The building itself has historical designation, and as such care had to be given to maintain the look of the exterior while modernizing the interior.

Other more well-known historic facts about the armory are that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke there in 1961 and President John F. Kennedy spoke there four days before he was assassinated in Dallas in 1963.

Elvis Presley played there several times. His first performance at the armory was not as a headliner, although a photo taken at that show wound up as the cover photo on his first album. Buddy Holly, Nat King Cole, James Brown, and The Doors were among other big name acts who performed there. The armory was also the venue for televised professional wrestling matches, with the likes of Dusty Rhodes and Hulk Hogan.



A crowd gathered in the event center for a lunch reception following the grand opening. A crowd gathered in the event center for a lunch reception following the grand opening.

A gymnasium is circled by an elevated track. Workout rooms overlook the gym. A gymnasium is circled by an elevated track. Workout rooms overlook the gym.

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