During the Spanish American War in 1898, Port Tampa was the port of embarkation for U.S. troops going to Cuba to fight. The area known as picnic Island was where the soldiers practiced close order drill and simple maneuvers while tented there. It was also a resort with parks, dance pavilion and bathing beach and where they enjoyed their off-duty hours. The original island was dredged in and became part of the mainland. The present recreational complex is near the original site.