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Advertise on the Tentacle

February 21, 2014

Dive Right In, Make a Splash!

Joe Charlebois

Now that the Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) system is officially easing out of the swimming pool business, the community, the county and the City of Frederick need to step up.


The demands for competitive facilities that also meet the needs of the community are increasing while the number of facilities will be decreasing. The Frederick County region needs to make a serious commitment to a new state-of-the-art aquatic center and fitness facility.


On Tuesday, in a meeting of the Board of Education and the Board of County Commissioners, it was revealed that the proposed construction plans of the new Frederick High School will not include a competitive swimming and diving facility within its new footprint. This will leave a tremendous void. Many members of both committees wondered aloud how to balance the needs of the community and school district with the fact that building a new pool on the site of the new Frederick High just isn't feasible.


The current situation that faces FCPS is that on the scholastic level already 10 county high schools share three aging and barely adequate swimming facilities. For example Walkersville High School, which was built in 1974, has a swimming pool with only six lanes and one springboard diving platform.


When the regional diving championships were held Tuesday, the competition took a great deal longer than it should have. The pool only has the use of one springboard. The starting blocks at Walkersville are antiquated at best. The starting blocks at many of the recreational pools far surpass what our student athletes in high school competition use.


In the near future – when Frederick High is rebuilt, the ten schools will be subject to the availability of only two aging facilities.


Of course, there are other swimming facilities in Frederick – including the YMCA and Hood College – but these swimming centers, even if they have available time, would not be able to hold a meet that could handle both the swimming and diving events. Neither facility has diving boards.


Last summer two of Frederick's aldermen, Michael O'Connor and Carol Krimm, went out to Garrett County to see firsthand the Garrett County Community College's relatively new Community Aquatic & Recreation Complex. It is the result of a county and school partnership that provides many of the features that a YMCA facility would provide, including a fitness center, a gymnasium and, of course, a six lane pool and warm water therapy pool with handicap access. As nice as this facility is, duplication of a similar facility wouldn't provide the same benefit to a growing county like Frederick.


During the joint committee meeting, Commissioner David Gray reminded both boards that the community surrounding the Catoctin High School in Thurmont was promised that if ever a new pool would be built in the county, the first spot was promised to the citizens of Thurmont. Years ago the Thurmont region lost their outdoor community pool during the construction of the Catoctin High School gymnasium. At the time, it was determined that the site of the community pool was the most appropriate location for the gymnasium.


With no plans for a replacement pool in the works, it is assured that 10 high schools will share two pools at least for a time. It wouldn't be that big a deal if it would only impact a few dozen high school students, but that notion is far from reality.


According to the FCPS Pool Advisory Committee, the dwindling resources allocated to providing up-to-date aquatic facilities affects not only the high school swim teams, swim clubs, Frederick Summer Swim League, Frederick County Parks and Rec, the City of Frederick Parks and Rec, scouts, Special Olympics, hospital rehabilitation, the general public and commercial users.


The FCPS Advisory Committee also found that there is justification for a replacement facility. It base this on the fact that the three high school pools are used to capacity during the swimming and diving season; 45-percent of the county's student athletes will be displaced by the Frederick High closure; swim club participation has increased 25-percent and YMCA participation in aquatics program has doubled.


Even with the promise of fulfilling the needs of northern Frederick County with a pool, what the Frederick region needs is a centralized facility either within the city limits – such as on the Hargett Farm property or just north of town near Utica Park. Utica Park would provide some relief to those in the northern half of the county while still being accessible to the county through its easy access from U.S. Route 15.


The facility itself shouldn't just replace the Frederick High pool; it should provide an aquatic center with an Olympic- size pool; a diving pool with possible platforms; a warm water therapy pool and a recreational pool with slides and a splash zone. Depending on the footprint of the facility, a fitness center or indoor track would help diversify the clientele throughout the year.


This type of model is what the current aldermen and future county council members should look to developing. Facilities such as these can be seen in both Montgomery County and Prince George’s County. Montgomery County has three top-flight facilities that even include 5 and 10-meter diving platforms at their centers and Prince George’s County have a facility just outside of FedEx Field that has held Olympic qualifying events.


We are a growing county and the attractions of such venues are very attractive in drawing much needed revenue into the county. We need to think big. We need to make a splash!


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