A group of amateur boxers in Deltona are upset because the city has closed their sparring place, and their complaints are getting attention.
Their complaints have also brought to light Deltona’s larger struggles with recreation facilities and policies.
The boxers got sympathy when they showed up at the March 7 Deltona City Commission meeting.
“I know your struggles. I know what you’ve been through,” Commissioner Maritza Avila-Vazquez told members of the Taino Boxing Club. “We need to find a space for the Taino boxers.”
The boxers have long used the gym at Campbell Park for practice and training, but Acting City Manager John Peters ordered it closed Feb. 25, citing concerns about liability for injuries, the condition of the building and the group’s using the building at no charge.
The lockout left the club with no place to meet and practice. One boxing-club member suggested letting the club fix up the gym.
“Let us put our work into it,” Cookie DeJesus urged the commission. “It’s something for me to give back to my community.”
DeJesus said the Taino Boxing Club provides leisure opportunities for youngsters who may otherwise turn to substance abuse or criminal activity.
“We need these programs,” another speaker said. “Fix the building up. Open the building.”
Others agreed. Tara D’Errico said the city’s youth need places for activities after school.
“They may not like being told what to do; what they don’t like is having nothing to do,” she told the City Commission.
D’Errico said she is running for the District 3 seat on the City Commission, now held by Avila-Vazquez.
D’Errico urged city officials to create “family-friendly activities.”
“These young people have nowhere to go,” Manny Rodriguez said. “I am angry about this.”
City Manager Peters said the Taino Boxing Club has used the gym in Campbell Park several times each week at no charge. He said allowing free use is inconsistent with the city’s policy to charge organizations for the use of public facilities.
Peters proposed the City Commission convene a special meeting on parks and recreation, and take action, if necessary, to upgrade its facilities to meet the needs of all of Deltona’s residents.
“This is something that should have been done a long time ago,” Peters said. “Our facilities are not up to par. I’ve even heard the term ‘deplorable.’”
As for the building the boxing club formerly used, Peters gave it a poor rating.
“We need to condemn the building,” he recommended.
Peters continued, “We have facilities that have not been kept up. The city is at risk.”
“We don’t want anyone to be liable for injuries,” Commissioner Dana McCool said.
Avila-Vazquez said the Taino Club has liability insurance because of its affiliation with USA Boxing, a nonprofit organization that promotes Olympic-style boxing. Boxing-club member Edwin Encarnacion also said the club is covered under USA Boxing.
The City Commission readily agreed to call a special session for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 22, to discuss Deltona’s parks and recreation policies.
“This special meeting we’re going to have is long overdue,” Mayor Heidi Herzberg said.
Peters said the boxing club’s woes result from neglect by city officials no longer on the job.
“I have been working to fix problems in this city,” the manager said. “This is not going to be easy. It’s unfortunate. I have struggled over the last two weeks over this. … We can create a recreation program that this city can be proud of.”