August 5, 2008

Supporters of 50-Meter Pool Address City Commissioners

By Karen Mikols, The Salina Journal, Kan.

Aug. 5--Donning a blue T-shirt with the words "We need your help -- please ask for a 50-meter pool," 9-year-old Kodi Simmons addressed the Salina City Commission on Monday afternoon.

"It's really hot inside (during practice), and more kids would swim if we had outdoor swimming," she said. "It's fun."

Simmons was one of four who addressed commissioners during the meeting Monday, requesting the commission consider a 50-meter pool as a part of the proposed Salina aquatic park. Commissioners took no action Monday.

"The design phase is now, and we want to ask you to support a 50-meter pool," Mike Mattek said.

Thursday marked the end of surveys to collect public opinion about features to be included in the proposed aquatic park.

"You could still have a lazy river and slides while incorporating a 50-meter pool," said Mattek, who was a competitive swimmer.

Kristina Courbot, who has swimmers ages 12 and 10, said she trained in a 50-meter pool as a child living in Winfield.

"There are a lot of good plans that include a 50-meter pool," Courbot said, "and they include all the amenities we're looking at. My kids want a good play park, but man, they want to compete. Their friends want to compete."

Some locals have ambitious aquatic goals, and a 50-meter swimming pool would help achieve those.

"Matthew's eventual goal is to be an Olympic qualifier, and he's on track to meet that goal," Evelyn Cable said of her 15-year old son. "He swims five hours a day. With not having a 50-meter pool to practice in, our kids are at a disadvantage."

For competitive swimmers, the transition between a 25-yard indoor pool for training and a 50-meter outdoor pool for competition is difficult.

"Our backstrokers are all over the place," Mattek said. "They're used to being inside, following the tiles on the ceiling at South High.

"Some swimmers, their first time to swim at a 50-meter pool was at a meet."

Courbot added the elements play into the difference between indoor and outdoor swimming as well.

"The sun is shining in your eyes, reflecting off your goggles and the wind is blowing the flags," she said. "When you're inside, the flags don't move."

Courbot said that activities such as boating, kayaking or scuba training would all be possible in a 50-meter pool, in addition to swimming lessons, public lap swimming and swim meets.

"There are some interesting suggestions in terms of scuba and canoeing instruction that would help maximize that area that sits empty during most of the day," Commissioner Aaron Peck said. "I'm open to any and all ideas at this point, but my sense is there is not a tremendous amount of public support for a 50-meter facility."

For every person who approaches Peck in support, he said about two people approach him opposing a 50-meter pool.

"However, if we could incorporate that to a larger design that maximizes and efficiently uses the features and stays under budget, that would be terrific," Peck said. "I am all for competitive swimming -- I swam one year in high school. Despite my own interest in swimming, I have to make a decision based on what the majority of our citizenry will use.

"We have to think it through and see if it's viable for the community and long tem sustainable."


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