Controversy surrounds Brandon’s The Regent community center only five months after its doors opened.
The issue at hand surrounds the lack of emphasis on the community aspect of this $7 million project, being paid for directly out of taxpayers’ pockets.
Contrasting the lack of community emphasis is The Regent’s extravagant and regal dcor, large ballrooms and other country club-like amenities. These amenities have brought into sufficient question how exactly this community center will benefit. the greater good of the Brandon community at taxpayers’ expense.
Now, state Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview, is probing for an apology – and rightly so.
When considering the community center, Burgin said to News Channel 8 that she envisioned “a place where the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts can meet.”
Burgin’s vision is lost with The Regent’s high-end feel, which aims heavily toward lavish and expensive events.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management provided $2.5 million to ensure the community center was a suitable hurricane shelter. Other contributions include $1.4 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $2.5 million derived directly from Hillsborough County Community Investment Tax.
It’s hard to see how taxpayers’ visions of a community center would coincide with the reality of The Regency, which prides itself on being a posh venue for events.
According to News Channel 8, the center has yet to provide or promote community programs or its dual use as a hurricane shelter.
However, The Regent hasn’t hesitated to promote its lavish ballrooms, available to rent out for regal occasions such as weddings, galas, Sweet 16 parties and bar and bat mitzvahs, according to The Regent’s website.
The website further describes The Regent as “one of the most beautiful venues in Florida.” It may be beautiful, but when considering the center should benefit community, it’s hard to see why marble flooring and chandeliers should be top priorities.
According to Bloomingdale Patch, a local news site, rent prices in the thousands have driven nonprofit organizations away from holding events in the center, leaving private events, parties and weddings to occupy much of The Regent’s time and space.
The Regent’s board has even closed its meetings, no longer allowing public attendance and further dwindling community accessibility and emphasis.
The Bloomingdale Patch also reported that after much criticism, The Regent altered its mission statement to add a community emphasis, stating it “will meet the needs of the Greater Brandon community.”
Merely placing a few clauses in a mission statement will not be enough for the community to be brought back into this project, which seems to have lost sight of its initial mission. The taxpayer funds must be taken into consideration when executing a project whose emphasis must be community.
Tara Petzoldt is a junior majoring in political science.