Major Aquatics Center Coming to New Glazer Family Jewish Community Center
Updated: Dec 22, 2020
October 14, 2016
When complete, rows of cabanas and barbecue grills will surround an 8-lane competitive-sized swimming pool – flanked by an expansive wading pool, spa, splash pad for kids and scores of other watery features for families.
Those plans are taking shape, thanks largely to a generous donation from Leon and Diane Mezrah, together with their children Todd, Shari and Lee, and their grandchildren Max, Sam and Cole. To honor, the family’s matriarch and patriarch, the aquatics center will be named the Diane and Leon Mezrah Family Aquatic Complex.
“I pretty much grew up at the pool at the previous JCC in South Tampa. We were there every day in the summer,” said Lee Mezrah. “For me, this donation was a way to honor my parents, and secondly to bring back something that was really meaningful for me as a child – a community pool.”
That donation places the family among the largest financial backers of the overall JCC project. When complete, the facility will have more than 100,000 square feet of interior space, including a visual arts center, a fitness center, indoor track, a business accelerator and space for gatherings of varying sizes for social or business events. Construction is now under way and the facility will open late this year.
The design and construction team for the JCC hired a pool architect to design the pool and the wider area around the property’s north side.
That development comes as downtown Tampa adds more water recreation areas, including a city-backed Water Works Park. But beyond those pools, Lee said there are not many places for kids in the area to cool off from the Florida heat.
Leon Mezrah recalls his time raising kids in Tampa and the importance of a community pool.
“We used to go to that South Tampa JCC pool all the time,” Leon Mezrah said. “We sure didn’t have a pool at our house, so that’s where we went. We’re happy with what this new JCC is doing, and we look forward to the completion of the building, and I think our family will use it quite often. We’re excited about having pledged what we did.”
Diane Mezrah added, “Our objective was to bring back an enhanced sense of community to the entire South Tampa area. This will be a wonderful gathering place, not only for the Jewish community but for everyone.”
As a child, Todd Mezrah was at the former South Tampa JCC often. “I went to summer camp there for years,” Todd said, “and I ultimately became a counselor there.”
Todd’s wife Shari Mezrah said much of her motivation for supporting the JCC came from their desire to give back to the community. “Tampa is our home,” she said. “We wanted to be part of this important project as well as create a legacy for our family.”
A pool is more than just a great place to hang out, Shari said. It’s a place to work out, gather with friends and have a more robust social life. “We are thrilled to be a part of it,” she said.
In the coming months, contractors should begin digging out space for the pools, said Jack Ross, the executive director of the JCC. It is expected to open with the rest of the JCC late this fall.
“The design has evolved significantly because of the generosity of the Mezrah family,” Ross said. “Since this began, the plan went from just a normal square on the design plans that said ‘pool,’ to an extensive aquatics center.” Ross and the construction design team consulted with swim league and youth team professionals on the best configuration of size and number of lanes, and even delved into the exact profile of the pool and methods to tamp down waves to allow swimmers to cruise through the water faster.
“We have a pool that’s more dedicated to races and swimming laps,” Ross said, “and then there’s a more recreational pool that’s about 3 feet deep for kids and adults to play in. Nearby is a splash area with a bunch of statues squirting water all over for fun.”
“The Aquatics Center is going to be one of the jewels in the crown of the Bryan Glazer Family JCC and people across the region are excited about it,” said Ross.
The old South Tampa JCC, with its pool, on Horatio Street adjacent to Jewish Towers, was there for many years but closed in the early 1990s. The Tampa Jewish Federation & JCC closed a deal in late 1992 to purchase a 21-acre former drug rehabilitation center off Gunn Highway. It was converted it into the new home for the Federation and JCC and is now the Maureen and Douglas Cohn Community Campus, housing not only Federation and JCC offices, but also offices for Tampa Jewish Family Services and the Weinberg Village assisted living facility. The Cohn campus is expected to continue its current operations even after the Glazer JCC opens in South Tampa.
Source: Jewish Press of Tampa