Project brings new fields and sports to area
By Kyle LoJacono
A $3.9 million expansion of the Oscar Cooler Sports Complex means more fields, fresh facilities and extra room for even more Lutz, Odessa and Land O’ Lakes athletes.
The project is nearly complete and a grand opening will happen in time for the fall sports season after the complex passes final inspections.
“It will bring more recreation and athletic options for people in north Hillsborough County,” said John Brill, spokesman for Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation. “We’ve been working to expand the park for a few years now and it will be approved soon.”
The project adds 33 acres of land to the complex, located along W. Lutz-Lake Fern Road and Crooked Lane in Lutz. The expansion was originally planned for completion in April, but no sports programs were scheduled to use the new facilities until later this summer.
The project is adding more parking spots, a playground, more concession stands and restrooms, more football fields and also soccer fields for the first time.
“Really that area of north Hillsborough hasn’t ever had a soccer program,” said department director Mark Thornton. “People had to travel to New Tampa, Town ‘N’ Country or Pasco County to play competitive soccer. Now they will have fields near home and that’ll help soccer thrive in the area.”
There will be one soccer field for games and three practice fields for soccer and football at the complex. FC Tampa Rangers will be the competitive soccer program run out of the complex beginning later this summer.
The Rangers are part of the FC Tampa Soccer Club, the oldest youth soccer program in Tampa, according to club organizer and Lutz resident Mike Connell. The Rangers will have developmental programs for younger children and competitive seasons for older players.
“The new fields will be great for the area,” Connell said. “Kids have been waiting for competitive soccer in Lutz and Odessa for years and now they will have it.”
The new soccer program will play in the Florida Youth Soccer Association against such area clubs as Wesley Chapel Soccer Club and the Fusion Futbol Club in New Tampa.
“The real goal is to build soccer here in north Hillsborough County,” Connell said. “For me I’d like to think the kids will eventually bring success to our local high schools, which are Steinbrenner, Freedom, Gaither and Wharton here in Hillsborough.”
For more information on the Rangers, visit www.fctampalutz.com.
The expansion will also make the park one of the game sites for Tampa Bay Youth Football League (TBYFL), a Hillsborough youth football and cheerleading organization.
The Lutz Chiefs, which joined the 16-team TBYFL this year after spending nearly 30 years in the Pasco Police Athletic League, will play home games at the complex with such area teams as the South Pasco Steelers, Thonotosassa Giants and Carrollwood Cardinals.
Lutz Little League baseball and Lutz Leaguerettes softball also call the complex home. A future project will add another baseball field to the park, reconfigure another and add additional parking. Those improvements are scheduled for completion by the start of the next spring sports season.
“Oscar Cooler park is a great place for softball and baseball,” said Frank Zambito, coach of softball team 2 Hot 2 Handle. “The new fields and everything else they are adding will just make it that much better.”
For information on Lutz Leaguerettes, visit www.lutzleaguerettes.com.
Zambito’s team just won the pigtails division, for 10 and 13-years-old girls, last season. Girls in Lutz Leaguerettes are mostly from Lutz, Odessa and Land O’ Lakes.
The facility’s new lighting system is designed to prevent the surrounding neighborhoods from being disturbed during night events. Large trees were also kept in place to act as a sound barrier.
“We want to be good neighbors,” Brill said.
Brill said there are no plans to expand either Nye Park or the Lake Park, both located in Lutz.
The Oscar Cooler Sports Complex dates back to 1975 when the facility had just three fields for baseball only. Before then the area was mainly orange groves. Cooler, a Lutz resident, worked with county officials and local volunteers to get the initial park built.
Expanded Oscar Cooler Sports Complex
Cost: $3.9 million
New facilities: one soccer game field, one football game field, soccer/football practice fields, parking spaces, playgroup, restrooms, concession stands, two maintenance buildings
New programs: FC Tampa Rangers soccer club, Tampa Bay Youth Football League teams
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.