Local Tampa architect reveals unofficial Ray’s stadium design

The stadium design by Joe Toph includes a bird’s-eye view.

 

 

 

 

 

A Tampa architect has developed an unofficial visual concept for the proposed Tampa Bay Rays ballpark in Ybor City.

Joe Toph released his vision for the new stadium on SkyScraperCity.com under the username Bueller. The designs are unofficial and the Ray’s team was not involved in their creation.

“I created these for fun,” Toph said. “I just wanted to get a creative dialogue started on the potential the location has.”

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan announced Oct. 24 that he found a site for a new baseball stadium. The 14 acre site is bordered by the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, North 15th Street, East 4th Avenue and Channelside Drive.

Locals and officials brought up one of the main issues with the location, which is parking. The lot is large enough for a baseball stadium, but there is concern that there may not be enough room on the proposed site for additional parking to be built.

However, the proximity to Ybor City and Downtown Tampa makes this site easily accessible through public transit. Toph’s plan includes the use of the trolley line, noting that it could also serve as a light rail line in the future. A possible Uber pickup lot and a water taxi marina are also included in the design.

If Toph’s vision does not pan out, and another garage cannot be built on the lot, there are other parking options. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told ABC Action News that the parking garages in Ybor City and in the downtown area are not used every night.

“The key will be to provide the linkages whether it’s a trolley or whatever to connect those garages to the stadium,” Buckhorn said.

The next hurdle for the proposed site will be finding the funding for the project.

“That’s going to be the $800 million question,” Buckhorn said.

The Rays will have to come to the table with a significant financial plan to fund the potential stadium. Mayor Buckhorn doesn’t want another stadium built on taxpayer dollars.

Raymond James Stadium is funded completely by taxpayer dollars and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lease to play in the stadium. According to Buckhorn, another stadium funded the same way would leave future generations of mayors and locals with an unpayable debt.

Tampa Bay real estate agent and Palmetto Beach resident, Laura Meyer, is looking forward to the possible development of the new stadium in such close proximity to the neighborhood she has called home for over a decade.

“A stadium in Ybor would have a huge impact on the residential community here,” Meyer said. “It’s the kind of boost the neighborhood could use to really put it on the map as a new up and coming area for Tampa.”

Palmetto Beach sits south of Ybor, west of 22nd Street and tucked on the east side of Desoto Park. Meyer says the area has a lot of potential to be another residential hot spot like Channelside and Hyde Park have become.

However, other locals are not as convinced that a stadium located in Ybor would be good move.

“I don’t know how they are going to fit a stadium onto the lot they are interested in,” Justin Cales, a student at Hillsborough Community College, said. “The traffic would just be terrible, as if it isn’t bad enough already. A stadium over here would be chaos.”

Cales has been attending HCC in Ybor for over a year. The small brick roads have taken time for him to adjust to and the idea of stadium traffic on those streets isn’t comforting.

“Ybor is great the way it is now, I don’t why we’d want to mess up a good thing,” Cales said.

Saint Petersburg votes re-election in mayoral race

 Voters elected incumbent Rick Kriseman to be mayor of St. Petersburg by a slim margin on Tuesday.

According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, Kriseman won 51.64 percent of the vote. His opponent, former mayor of St. Petersburg Rick Baker, received 48.36 percent of the vote. Fewer than 2,000 votes separated the two candidates, both of whom have served time as the city’s mayor.

Kriseman campaigned with a platform that supported clean energy and LGBT equality, while openly criticizing President Donald Trump. He also emphasized his commitment to reducing crime and improving infrastructure.

Baker’s campaign also focused on reducing crime and making St. Petersburg more environmentally friendly. His campaign website’s “blueprint” also showed his desire to improve public schools, bring more jobs to the area and revitalize the downtown district.

On paper, both candidates seem to agree on most topics—but they certainly did not act like it. Baker, who was the city’s mayor from 2001 to 2010, repeatedly criticized Kriseman’s administration, blaming it for St. Pete’s “sewage crisis” which was worsened by Hurricane Irma. Kriseman called out Baker for not openly opposing Trump.

While the office is nonpartisan, political parties still play a major role. Kriseman is a Democrat and Baker is a Republican.

A columnist at the Tampa Bay Times advocated for Baker to speak publicly about Trump. For John Romano, the writer of that article, knowing a candidate’s political ideology is crucial when deciding who to vote for, and knowing whether Baker supports one of the most polarizing people in America could have swayed voters.

Kriseman embraced his political affiliation. He received an endorsement from former President Barack Obama, and made national headlines last year with his viral tweet about President Trump.

While people criticized him for the tweet, he ultimately proved that being partisan in an increasingly politically divided nation can be advantageous.

Other Democrats won seats across the United States on Tuesday, leading one Washington Post journalist to label it the “Democratic wave.”

Local politicians congratulated Kriseman after his victory.

Kriseman won despite the fact that the Tampa Bay Times, the most popular local newspaper, endorsed Baker. The Times traditionally recommends Democrats, and some have questioned the newspaper’s motive for recommending Baker.

One local news publication questioned the newspaper’s integrity after discovering that a member of the editorial board wrote the foreword in Baker’s upcoming book.

After Kriseman won the election, he tweeted a thank you to those who supported him, and promised to uphold his campaign promises.

Kriseman is the 53rd mayor of St. Petersburg.

 

Pam Colleton’s 57 years in Progress Village

 

Progress Village is Tampa’s first low income housing area and it has been through a lot over the years, but one resident has always stayed faithful and seen the best in the neighborhood.

Pamela Colleton has lived in Progress Village since the 60s. Colleton loves “The Village” and she knows almost everything there is to know about it.

“Our community was like one big family. You know how you hear that it takes a village to raise a family? Well this is our village. I raised my kids out here. I tried to move one time, but they didn’t want to move, so I couldn’t move and stayed here. I’ve been in my (current) home… it will be 40 years January 28. So, I just love the village,” Colleton said.

Colleton works in the parks and recreation center where she meets all the families that live in the village.

“Well I love the community. I have been here for 57 years, so I grew up in the neighborhood. So, I know a lot of the families here, the older families as well as the newer generations of families. I’ve worked at the parks and recreation for eight years doing the basketball program at the gym. So, a lot of the newer kids I met. So, it’s a feeling of home it really is,” Colleton said.

Colleton moved to “The Village” when she was eight years old. Before that, she lived in Hyde Park. Growing up in “The Village,” Colleton was able to share many stories about the park, where she spent most of her time when she was younger. The park was the place where everyone would hang out, and none of their parents worried about them because they knew their children were safe.

There was always plenty to do at the park like playing on the basketball courts or dancing to James Brown music. Mr. Johnson, who ran a concession stand at the park, would put a quarter in the juke box for the kids to dance to. Colleton was very active as a child and would constantly be engaged in games of basketball, volleyball, kickball and more.

Photo from Jeanette Abrahamsen

“The basketball courts. We had four goals and we had a four-square court and that stayed busy. The four-square court from the beginning to the end, that stayed busy. In front of the concession stand we had a large piece of concrete where the music was playing. You could go and dance if you wanted to,” Colleton said.

Colleton owns a family reunion booklet. The booklet is about Progress Village. “We had people coming back to Progress Village who haven’t been back in Progress Village for years. Pulling this all together we advertised it in the papers. We were just trying to get everybody back and quite a few people came back, every year quite a few people came back,” Colleton said.

The booklet was Progress Village’s yearbook and showed all the history that happened in the village. The book had history ranging from church history to the history of the first city council presidents. The booklet gives people the chance to see and learn about their own history.

Pamela Colleton is passionate about Progress Village and she loves being part of her community. She shared several stories with WUSF and you can listen to the whole interview below.

Little League children taught to succeed off field

Bianco Berry (left) and his daughter, London. Photo by Katie Ebner

The vice president of Progress Village Little League teaches children more about life than baseball in hopes of inspiring a misunderstood community.

Progress Village was created less than 60 years ago—before the height of the civil rights movement—to give black people an affordable community to call home. Only a railroad track separated it from the Klu Klux Klan, who terrorized members of the new community.

Progress Village changed a lot over the years, but it still fights a bad reputation from its drug problems and murders that seem to be the only reasons the community makes the news.

Little League Vice President Bianco Berry, however, sees Progress Village differently than outsiders. Though he did not grow up there, the tight-knit community enjoys a rich storytelling culture, which is how he learned about its history.

“Just to hear the old stories is really, it’s almost like, you growing up, you wasn’t always here, but you always feel like you was always involved in the community,” said Berry.

Berry started volunteering with the Little League when he moved to Tampa in 2006. His passion for giving back to the community and being a positive influence for his children and the children he coaches earned him a spot on the Little League board, and eventually the title as vice president.

During his stint as vice president he coached both of his children, and even coached his daughter’s softball team when it won the district championship two years ago. His daughter, London, 11, cherishes her relationship with her dad for more than what they have accomplished on the field together.

“Many people don’t have a dad that can just tell them that, ‘oh you’re amazing, you’re worth it in life,’ so I just feel like respected that like I have someone that is there for me that can tell me that,” said London.

She credits the Little League for playing a big role in teaching children like her valuable life lessons.

“I think that kids can develop great leadership because Progress Village, we hold a lot of like activities for the children to do, just to get involved more, and also it gives the kids like new opportunities to learn something new, and to experience things off of others,” said London.

His primary focus is not winning games. It’s helping children learn how to achieve great things beyond Little League Baseball.

“We’re trying to teach you the game, trying to teach you the fundamentals, trying to teach you this is how life is,” said Berry.

As one of the league’s leaders, Berry wants players to recognize the importance of working together.

“We try to give you the tools that’s not necessary to succeed in sport but to succeed in life as well,” said Berry. “This has to be like a team organization. You got to have teamwork when you go to your job, you got to have a team, got to be able to rely on others, you try to teach them it’s not always about ‘me me me.'”

He also emphasizes the importance of giving at-risk children a positive atmosphere to learn and grow, instead of falling into bad habits.

“[We] try to teach them to be respectful of everyone, and just try to provide a safe and fun environment for them to come out and do stuff, and not have to be always in the streets, always doing something negative,” said Berry. “Try to turn something negative, and try to make them keep, keep a positive attitude.”

Bianco and London spoke to WUSF as part of its “Telling Tampa Bay Stories” radio series. Photo by Katie Ebner

Berry teaches his own children these same values. On every family vacation, he and his wife take their children to different universities wherever they visit to show their kids what they can achieve if they continue to work hard and be positive influences on others. These trips gave his daughter a new perspective, and inspired her to make a difference in others’ lives.

” … Until like a few years ago I didn’t really realize that most people don’t exactly get like I have,” said London. “[I’m] able to do stuff in life, [and] not always [be] one of those people who’s always down. I can always stay positive.”

According to Berry, both of his children exemplify the values he tries to teach Little League players, and he could not be more proud of them. His daughter talks about how she stands up for kids who get bullied at school, and how she is involved with Sisters Network—an organization that raises awareness for African-American women impacted by breast cancer. One day, she wants to be a doctor or professional athlete.

“I mean, she’s a pleasure,” said Berry about his daughter. “Both my kids are, so I’m just happy trying to do the right thing by them, make sure they can be productive citizens in life.”

Students work with service organization to give back to community

 

Many students from all over Tampa Bay have joined SALT (Serve and Love Together) and meet every Monday at St. James Church in Tampa to give back to those in need.

Mina Hanna and Maggie Attia are two of the volunteers at the organization, and SALT teaches them about how they can improve the city they live in one week at a time.

“Well this is a wonderful organization as you see it gives back to the community,” Hanna said. “It gives back to the community and we see our fruits produce more fruit.”

Everything is donated from people in the community who are willing to help out.

“We also teamed up with another organization that hands out blankets and toiletries and socks,” Attia said.

SALT partnered with Blanket Tampa Bay and they have access to many necessities to share with those in need throughout the Bay Area.

People like Hanna and Attia truly see the difference that the organization makes on people’s lives every day by talking to people about God and giving them hope. SALT is affiliated with a Coptic youth group in the area.

“There used to be a guy on drugs, and his whole life was messed up, and I cannot tell you how much this organization influenced him. And now this guy is the most spiritual guy you’ll ever meet,” Hanna said.

SALT does a small gesture once a week, but it leaves a lifelong impact on some of these people that they get the pleasure of serving.

To learn more about this organization, please contact Mina Hanna at (727) 333-5318

Feeding Tampa Bay, Home to Those Who Want to Help

Volunteers from all throughout Tampa Bay come out to give back to their community at Feeding America Tampa Bay every week Monday through Saturday.

Volunteers from throughout Tampa Bay come out to give back to their community at Feeding Tampa Bay every week Monday through Saturday.

Feeding Tampa Bay works with smaller organizations such as Metropolitan Ministries and Trinity Café to help distribute food to those in need.

The organization makes it easy for anyone who is willing to help out in the bay area to join.

University of Tampa freshmen, Peter Peirce and Kaelin Willette both volunteer at Feeding Tampa Bay. They learned about the organization through their school and have been coming voluntarily ever since.

“Every time that I’ve come since has been voluntarily just because the first time I did it I enjoyed it so much that I figured I’d keep coming back and it’s always been good to me,” Peirce said.

Feeding Tampa Bay is an enjoyable volunteering environment for all who come.

“I love the energy here, I think everyone that comes here has such a positive energy and vibe and they make it a lot of fun,” Willette remarked.

Megan Carlson the organization’s community engagement manager  has been working for Feeding Tampa Bay for two years now and enjoys her working environment immensely.

“There’s something for everybody and we kind of satisfy every desire that people might have to give back to the community which is really cool,” Carlson said.

To learn more about this organization, visit feedingtampabay.org

 

 

Tampa Bay’s Best: The Florida Aquarium

Florida Aquarium employee Eric Hovland and guest Angela Moody share a passion for marine life and the environment in which they live.

Hovland has seen The Florida Aquarium blossom into the popular Tampa attraction that it is today.

“I’ve worked here at The Florida Aquarium for going on 22 years in May and I’ve loved every minute of it,” Hovland said. “Seeing the facility grow over the years and being able to work with all of the diverse species of marine life on a daily basis has been a dream come true for me.”

Located in downtown Tampa, right next to Port Tampa Bay, The Florida Aquarium offers its patrons a unique experience that is unlike any other aquarium in the United States.

“I had no idea until I got here that you could dive with sharks at this aquarium,” Moody said. “I’ve never heard of anything like that at any other aquarium I’ve ever been to.”

The Florida Aquarium was the first aquarium in the nation to offer an uncaged dive with sharks experience.

“We have the sand tiger sharks and all of our diverse fish that you can get to know,” Hovland said. “Learning about sharks can really accelerate when you can see sharks being sharks.”

People from all over the world travel to Tampa, which in turn brings many diverse people and cultures to The Florida Aquarium.

“Whether they’re getting off a cruise ship and stopping in for a visit, we really do get a diversity of the world’s culture,” Hovland said. “It’s nice to see our impact reaches much further than just the Tampa Bay area.”

For more information, please visit flaquarium.org

Organic Farm Supported by Community

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm is a local farm funded by the community to bring fresh organic produce to the city. They are located at 6942 West Comanche Ave., in the heart of Tampa.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm started a CSA to raise money for the farm so that they can grow fresh vegetables for families that are interested in eating healthy.

“CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. That frankly means that the community is supporting this farm to grow food for them,” Travis Hansen said.

Hansen has been the farm manager now for two seasons and wants to continue his work at Sweetwater Organic Community Farm. He is very passionate about what he does.

“If you’re not present with love then you’re not going to fully connect with these plants. You’re not going to fully connect with your food that you are bringing to your table,” Hansen said.

That is what Sweetwater Organic Community Farm is all about. They want to educate the community to live a better life style by eating healthy food.

“We are really reaching out to the food desert community that we have around us. So in a 1.5-mile radius it’s considered a food desert, where people do not have access to clean healthy organic food. So we offer a much healthier alternative with organic produce,” Christine Wallace said.

Sunday local vendors set-up booths at the farm to sell their products and farm grown vegetables. Sweetwater Organic Community Farm also offers farm tours every third Sunday of the month as well as educational workshops for adults and children. You can check out their upcoming events on their website at http://sweetwater-organic.org

Bulls for Kids Pumpkin Day Benefiting John Hopkin’s All Children’s Hospital

 

The University of South Florida organization Bulls For Kids has begun their fundraising efforts in order to benefit John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital by hosting seasonal events on campus.

Appropriately named after the 1966 Charlie Brown televised special, The Great Pumpkin Day invited students to purchase a pumpkin, promising that one hundred percent of all the proceeds will go directly to the hospital.

“John Hopkin’s All Children’s Hospital is local, and it feels good knowing that you are helping out an organization that is really close by.” said USF student Jayla Pugh.

Bulls for Kids is part of USF’s Dance Marathon, a movement  of student-run philanthropies benefiting Children’s Miracle Network hospitals around the country. Bulls for Kids is the largest student run philanthropy on campus.

The Bulls for Kids Promotions Director, Clarisse Fres, provided activities that students could participate in with their pumpkin.

“You can decorate them with paint and these other art supplies. Or you can take it home and do whatever you want to do with the pumpkin,” Fres said.

With waivers signed and safety goggles worn, students were also given the option to smash their pumpkins by raising it above their heads, and launching it towards the ground. Pumpkin smashing was offered as a way for students to relieve stress.

All these smaller events are leading to the main Bulls for Kids event in the spring: the 12-hour Dance Marathon, which is where most of the donations come in.

According to leadandserve.usf.edu, Bulls for Kids broke its long-standing record at USF last year by raising $130,011.29 more than any other year before and an 82% increase from the 2015 marathon.

“It’s a year-long process,” Fres said. “Now that this year is around, we’re going to try and raise $200,000.”

Bulls For Kids has no doubt that they will reach this goal, especially with registration for the Dance Marathon already accepting teams and donations.

The Dance Marathon officially begins on Feb. 25, 2017. Registration ends Dec. 11, and donations are being accepted until 9 p.m. at the event.

Manatee Viewing Center Expects Bigger Crowds In 30th Year

 

Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center employee’s Jamie Woodlee and Bob Rast both share a common passion for the protection of Florida manatees.

Woodlee has worked for TECO’s Manatee Viewing Center for more than 30 years and has seen the facility grow into what it is today.

“I’ve actually been with Tampa Electric for 30 years, and started right away in their environmental department,” Woodlee said. “It’s just been an amazing experience being able to see how far we’ve come since I first started here.”

Located off of Dickman Road in Apollo Beach Florida, the TECO Manatee Viewing Center offers guests an up close and personal view of manatees in their natural habitat. According to tampaelectric.com, Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach delivered reliable electricity to the community for 16 years before the commercial operation of Big Bend Unit 4 in 1986. It was that year where people first took notice of manatees arriving in large numbers in the power station’s discharge canal.

“We get visitors from all over the world,” Woodlee said. “We get anywhere from 150,000 to over 300,000 visitors in over five-in-a half months.”

The Manatee Viewing Center’s mission is to educate the public about the Florida manatee and its habitat. The center is a state and federally designated manatee sanctuary, which has interactive exhibits and staff members educating visitors of all ages about the life cycle of the manatee and the challenges it faces.

Rast said when the waters of Tampa Bay reaches 68 degrees or colder, the manatees would seek refuge in the Apollo Beach area.

“They are a unique creature,” Rast said. “When the weather gets chilly and the manatees get cold stressed, they come here to get warm and recharge their batteries so to speak.”

Rast has worked for the TECO Manatee Viewing Center for over 16 years and has extensive expertise on manatees in the area.

With tourists and locals flocking in from November 1 until April 15, the Manatee Viewing Center is ready for another year of big crowds.

“We are this quiet little gem of a place that is really starting to get out there,” Woodlee said.

Non-profit organization helps children succeed

According to the website, Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay uses hands-on experiences to help young people understand the economics of life. In partnership with business and educators, Junior Achievement brings the real world to students, opening their minds to their potential.

Fifth grade student Sonja Assidy is the CEO of Bright House. She works hard to make sure her business runs smoothly.

“I take checks to Kane’s Furniture, I go get the checks from Kane’s Furniture, bring it here, make sure my CFO signs it and then put it where it needs to go,” Assidy said.

Sally Eidge is the Director of Junior Achievement and sees over a hundred students daily. She wants every student to learn a valuable lesson.

“They need to understand that money doesn’t grow on trees, that you actually have to earn it and then spend it wisely,” Eidge said.

Before visiting JA BizTown, students complete a pre-visit curriculum program where they learn basic economic principles such as how to manage their personal bank account.

Kelly Thorne is a fifth grade language arts teacher at Deer Park Elementary and prepared her students for 12 weeks prior to coming to JA Biztown.

“We spend a lot of time on how to write checks, how to deposit checks, that whole process and how to budget their money,” Thorne said. “How when they get a paycheck, they have to make sure they save some money for their lunch, and then they have some spending money.”

Local Photography Studio Captures Memories

Senior year of high school is best described as bittersweet: happy times mixed with sad. Mojo Studios is a professional photography business owned by Patrick Myers, which specializes in capturing the happy memories through a lens.

“We really focus on our customers and make each photo shoot unique to every individual,” Myers said. “That is what really sets us apart from every other photography business.”

Located in Wesley Chapel, Mojo Studios is family-owned and has proudly supported customers all over the Tampa Bay area over the last eight years.

He compares their likeness to that of the restaurant business, saying they’re similar to a steakhouse, suggesting that their higher prices come with a higher quality.

Wharton High School senior, Katy Kipp is beyond happy with making the decision to get her picture taken by Myers.

“I would highly recommend Mojo Studios because it’s just like you’re own personal photo experience that you wouldn’t get with any other photographer.”

The school year is just getting under way, but Kipp wanted to get her pictures done before the school year comes to an end. She said she first heard about Mojo Studios through social media.

“I got super jealous of all the pictures on Instagram and told my mom I wanted to schedule an appointment.”

For more information, visit their company website at www.mojo-studios.com, or call (813)-774-9444.

 

 

Girls on the Run Empowering, Educating Life Skills

In its criss-cross through the nation, the Flavor Run 5K has left its mark through Girls on the Run in Tampa Bay.

Founded on a drive to create an affordable, fun and family-friendly event, The Flavor Run has transformed into a means of supporting local charities and businesses across the country.

“We have about 1,800 participants, and I’d say there are approximately 30 percent of first time runners,” said John McMahan, the event director and founder of the Flavor Run. “We focus on family, quality, and we also focus on partnering with local charities.”

Girls on the Run is a personal enrichment program for young girls that help to teach young girls life skills through a physical activity-based curriculum.  The program was established in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and has since grown to over 200 councils in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Laura Moore serves as the director of Girls on the Run Greater Tampa Bay.  She said for the volunteers and runners of the 5K that designates Girls on the Run as their group during registration, a donation will be made to the program.

“For every volunteer that we bring, they can raise money for charity,” Moore said. “And for every runner that is in our team, they can donate a certain amount. There was about $2,000 that was donated last year, and all of those funds goes directly to our scholarship program, so that every young girl can be part of Girls on the Run.”

Over the course of a few years, the Flavor Run has become a vital piece in allowing Girls on the Run the opportunity to offer scholarships to members.

“We were a small part three years ago and then last year we were the exclusive charity partner, and we’re back again as the exclusive charity partner.  Moore said.  “We love the Flavor Run.”

The goal for Girls on the Run is to empower young girls in developing a strong sense of character, and feel confident in who they are and make connections with their peers.

McMahan said what motivates him in his role at the Flavor Run is being involved in a family-friendly atmosphere.

“It has to be the people that I surround myself with,” McMahan said. “The organizations that we work with, Laura, including Girls on the Run in Tampa Bay, it has been unbelievable.”

Rays Seek Attendance Boost with Student Rush deal

The Tampa Bay Rays are hoping to give their college-aged fans more bang for their buck.

For the first time, the Rays are offering Student Rush tickets to fans 18 or older with a high school or college ID.  Students can get lower level seats every Friday night for just $15.

Rays vice president of communications Rick Vaughn said the team is targeting a different type of fan each day.

“On Monday, we hand out free tickets for military veterans on Military Monday,” Vaughn said. “For all Tuesday home games, kids 14 and under can get in for $2, and Wednesday we sell two dollar hot dogs. For Thursday, all seniors 60 years of age or older will receive a discounted ticket, and of course Friday is Student Rush.”

Vaughn said the Rays are in the upper third of major league baseball television ratings.

As for actual game attendance? Not so much. In 2015, Tampa Bay ranked last in the league, averaging just over 15,000 fans per game in a stadium that can fit up to 42,000.

Though the Rays are uncertain of how many students will attend the Friday games, they expect to average 2,000 to 3,000 students each week. Vaughn said if fans make the trip and show support of the deal, they will see there is more to do than just watch the game.

“We have the Ted Williams Baseball Museum,” Vaughn said. “It’s free with the purchase of a game ticket. We also have the ray tank in centerfield where we are supported by the Florida Aquarium.”

As for the students? They said the discount is something that should not be overlooked.

“For a student, this is a good opportunity to get out and do things around the Tampa Bay area without having to break your wallet,” said Aaron, a student from the University of Tampa.

Vaughn and the Rays hope promotions like Student Rush will help provide a much-needed boost in attendance.

For Bay area college students, this is one deal that is sure to be a home run.

“It’s great,” said Spencer, a student from the University of South Florida. “Since I work and I’m saving money, $15 for a Rays game is my kind of deal.”

 

Student Rush brings Lightning tickets to students for a fair price

Over the past few years, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Student Rush ticket program has gained popularity.

The program gives students with a valid high school or college ID the chance to purchase the best available tickets shortly before game time at a fair price.

“We think it’s a great program for both sides,” said Patrick Abts, the Lightning’s Digital Marketing Manager who oversees Student Rush. “It allows us to fill some of the last remaining seats with some of our best fans.”

Students are allowed to line up for Student Rush tickets as early as 7 a.m. on game days, and remain in line until two hours prior to game time to be given a wristband with their number in line.

Thirty minutes before game time, the students are led to the box office where they can purchase the best available tickets at a discounted rate. For the playoffs, any remaining lower level seats will be sold for $50, which normally ranges between $100 and $300. Standing room and upper level tickets will be sold for $25.

“Student Rush is amazing,” said Kristen Thomas, who arrived at 9 a.m. for tickets. “We do this all the time. It gives us a chance to root on the Bolts when we normally wouldn’t be able to afford playoff tickets. “

Organizers believe that if the Lightning continues through the playoffs, the demand will continue to grow and ultimately exceed the supply.

“We’re guaranteeing 100 tickets per game for the playoffs,” Abts said. “We don’t know until game time whether they are lower, upper, or standing room, but we’re guaranteeing 100 per game and may have more depending on the game.”

Abts and his colleagues agree that the best way students can guarantee themselves a Student Rush ticket is to arrive as close to 7 a.m. as possible.

Water sports fun and competition for the family

The Tampa Bay Water Ski Show Team hosts weekly shows on Saturday nights from April to October at its home location in Oldsmar in Tower Lake.

The team has been around since the 1960’s. It focuses on both the entertainment and competitive side of water skiing.

“Most of the families that join us, join us because they want to get their kids involved in something,” said Steve Sacone, the team president. “They’re not looking to get involved in typical youth sports, they’re looking for something a little bit different.”

Veteran skier and University of South Florida professor Dr. Larry Dunleavy is focusing on the upcoming Southern Regional Championship in Sarasota June 18-19.

“We’ve won a bunch of times, but the competition is getting better all the time,” Dr. Dunleavy said. “We’re always looking for fresh faces to help improve the team.”

The team is always looking for new members and there is never a limit on how many people can participate. Anyone looking to join can find more information on the the Tampa Bay Water Ski Show Team website or go to one of its many practices during the week.

Gumbo Boogie Band Brings Swamp Sound to Town

The Gumbo Boogie Band has been bringing the sound of the swamp to audiences nationwide since 1995, and this Sunday they bring their instruments to Ace’s Lounge in Bradenton.

Their sound is reflective of the band’s name, combining zydeco influences with modern rock to create melodies that pay homage to both the past and the present. Most importantly, they maintain a catalog of original work and covers that are sure to satisfy audiences who prefer these two genres.

It is not often that Bradenton plays host to musical acts with national renown. The Gumbo Boogie Band has performed with established acts such as Buckwheat Zydeco, one of the foremost musicians within the zydeco genre.

The quartet is headed by Ryan Langley, who handles vocals while also playing the piano and accordion. The other three members are drummer Chaz Trippy, saxophonist Ken Smith, and bassist/vocalist Steve Wigginton.

Despite performing together for over 20 years, the band remains in touch with its roots, as they have not reached a level of stardom that precludes them from the less glorious aspects of life as a musical act. This includes hauling their own equipment from gig to gig.

“We all bring our own equipment to each gig, and the degree of help provided varies from venue to venue,” said Ryan Langley. “In the case of Ace’s, owner Renee is who we contacted to sort out the details of when to arrive and what to expect.”

When it comes to performing at Ace’s, the band plans to arrive roughly an hour before their 5 p.m. performance time for a number of reasons.

“Typically we go through our set, testing our gear and going through a brief warm-up to make sure our sound is where we want it to be,” said bassist Steve Wigginton.

However, music is not the only thing that is typically discussed as the band passes the time leading up to a performance. They simply spend too much time together for the minutiae of life not to come up.

“Most of the time we find ourselves talking about what is going on in our lives, family and all of that,” said Smith. “Other times we discuss possible venues that we could play in the future.”

The pre-performance set up and discussions are all part of the group’s shared musical passion. Their existence as a band allows them to collectively follow their individual ambitions as musicians.

The Gumbo Boogie Band’s next stop: Ace’s Lounge located at 4343 Palma Sola Blvd. in Bradenton.

Admission is free and music begins at 5 p.m. Sunday.

How a nationwide nonprofit organization is helping Tampa

Proclaiming that they are the “first name in second chances,” Eckerd is a nationwide nonprofit organization that focuses on providing solutions that help struggling families and young adults thrive.

At the Eckerd Achievement Academy office in downtown Tampa, teachers Stephen Zambito and Tamara Johnson are just some of the staff that has been hired to teach some at-risk teens in the Tampa Bay community. Through this program their goal is to obtain their high school or GED diploma when traditional schooling options are no longer an option.

Johnson and Zambito create a safe place for these students who often come from broken homes and were children of the foster care system. Many of the students love it at Eckerd and consider it a family type atmosphere.

Every job comes with its ups and downs. Johnson said the hardest part of this particular job is getting attached to the students. “These kids are like my own and it’s really hard when one day they are here and the next day they are gone.” She also said that when they lack motivation it is hard to steer them in the right direction.

Zambito expressed the same sentiment saying, “Over the ten years I have done this I have definitely learned patience.”

Eckerd not only provides high school and GED diploma services, but also juvenile justice, child welfare, and behavioral health services for those in need. For more information about Eckerd please visit Eckerd.org or call 800-554-HELP.

 

 

 

 

Author James Morrow gives lecture at USF

On Monday, March 21, 2016 renowned science fiction author, James Morrow, will be visiting USF to discuss his new novel, “Galapagos Regained”.

Morrow will be giving a lecture on the fourth floor of USF’s library at 6:00 p.m. where he will discuss issues of science, religion, and pop culture. Joining Morrow will be fellow science fiction author and USF professor, Rick Wilbur.

“I’ve been in the science fiction community for a long time,” said Wilbur. “Getting Morrow to do this lecture was as easy as some scheduling and making phone calls to a comrade.”

After a small amount of aligning schedules between Wilbur, the university, and Morrow, the author is set to discuss his latest novel as a part of USF’s humanities institute’s lecture series.

“I urge all students who can make it to attend Morrow’s lecture,” said Wilbur. “He’s an incredible author and this is a great opportunity to discuss contemporary issues with a knowledgeable professional.”

Morrow, a self-proclaimed scientific humanist, is an author famous for his unconventional historical novels, which often examine the intertwining concepts of religion and science. His latest novel, “Galapagos Regained” plot centers on a Victorian adventurer who decides to repeat the voyages of Charles Darwin.

Anyone, whether a student, faculty or community member, will be able to attend both Morrow’s lecture and the event’s reception and book signing free of cost.

USF alumni eats like a caveman

 A young entrepreneur has taken her passion for eating healthy and combined it with her passion for cookies to create her own company Base Culture. This company is not like any other sweets retailer that sales brownies and banana bread; all of the products are paleo friendly, meaning they follow the popular Paleo Diet.

“The Paleo Diet is nicknamed the caveman diet for a reason” says Base Culture founder Jordann Windschauer, “If you were to follow the Paleo Diet, you eat meat, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and fruit.” Windschauer praises the diet and even goes on to say that she felt “more alive than ever and had more energy than she had had in years.”

While the Paleo Diet did have its ups it also had its downs. Windschauer enjoyed the new found energy boost, but she also missed all the sweets she used to eat.

“You know it got really hard not being able to just grab banana bread on the way to work in the morning. I looked for products that could satisfy my sweet tooth but would also satisfy paleo requirements but there were none” said Windschauer. It was that same day she took matters into her own hand and stated creating “sweets” that were made solely from seeds, nuts, and fruits.

She then took her paleo friendly sweets she baked to her local gym to share with her friends and they became an instant hit. People soon began offering compensation for her products, and overnight the company Base Culture was created.

Many customers have claimed to not even taste the difference between paleo friendly brownies and regular brownies. “I just tasted it and it’s actually really good and it’s awesome that it’s really healthy” said satisfied customer Lexi Ashby.

The idea of paleo friendly products has taken the market by force. Since the company’s beginning in 2013, Base Culture products are now available in over 50 stores nationwide and will soon be available in Walmart.