Bryan Glazer gives $4 million for new Jewish center in West Tampa


For years, attempts to revive the historic Fort Homer Westerly Armory in West Tampa became a fruitless endeavor.

That changed two years ago, when the Tampa Jewish Community Center and Federation realized the 100,000-square-foot space on North Howard Avenue just south of I-275 could fulfill its need to have a presence farther south in Tampa than its current spot on Gunn Highway.

In October 2013, the JCC signed a 99-year-lease for the armory with an option to buy during that period for a fixed price. It announced early last year it would start a $26 million capital campaign for an ambitious event center With more than $19 million now raised, a groundbreaking ceremony for the structure was held Monday.

It included announcing the facility’s new name, the Bryan Glazer Family JCC, to honor the Tampa Bay Buccaneers co-chairman who pledged $4 million for the project.

Construction crews have been renovating the new JCC since late last year, and it’s expected to open in September 2016. It will include a visual arts center, a premier events center, an outdoor aquatics facility, an indoor track, a multisport gymnasium and an Innovation Center for Israeli start-up companies networking with U.S. representatives. “It’s like a YMCA on cultural and educational steroids,” said Jack Ross, JCC executive director.

Local officials hope a  byproduct once the community center opens is to provide a vital shot in the arm for an area of town that hasn’t prospered in a long time.

“When I think of what West Tampa’s going to look like over the next five years, the transformation begins right here on Howard Avenue,” said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, whose ambitions for years have included revitalizing the area west of the Hillsborough River.

Speakers at Monday’s event frequently mentioned the historic nature of the facility, a place where Elvis Presley, James Brown, Pink Floyd and The Doors all performed, and where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy gave speeches

“It does have a colorful history, but the truth is it sat vacant far too long,”  Tampa Bay area Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said. She said West Tampa has always been “kind of been stuck,” in the same economic position, and compared it unfavorably with downtown Tampa, Westshore, even Carrollwood. “We thank you, JCC Federation,” she said. “Because you are going to be the linchpin, the future of West Tampa and this entire community.”

The project is being funded by public and private sources, including a $6 million grant from the state of Florida. Tampa-based Republican Reps. Jeff Brandes and Dana Young were invited to take part in the ceremony for their work in obtaining the money.

“Senator Brandes and I walked the halls of Tallahassee looking for funding,” Young told the audience of local community officials, lawmakers and members of the Jewish community who contributed to the project. “Finally we can have an event center that’s not A la Carte Pavilion,” she said, an event hall in northwest Tampa.

Executive Director Jack Ross some in South Tampa find it difficult to visit the Jewish Community Center in North Tampa.

“Some folks don’t recreate north of I-275,” he said. “And so the idea is that … we feel we are geographically triangulated in such a way that we’re relevant to the broadest spectrum possible.”

“I live here and we want to be a very active part of the community,” Glazer said after the ceremony. “This is for the entire community, not just the Jewish community.” It’s the second facility to have the Glazers name attached to it. In 2007, the Glazer Family Foundation gave $5 million for what ultimately resulted in the Glazer Children’s Museum, which adjoins the Tampa Museum of Art off of Ashley Drive in downtown Tampa.

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at [email protected].


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