Saturday, February 24, 2018
News Roundup

Could Hudson pool plan hold water?

HUDSON — The club swim team that helped save the county pool at the Land O'Lakes recreation complex last year might do the same for the imperiled county pool in Hudson.

The Land O'Lakes Lightning will form a second team that will train at the pool at Veterans Memorial Park. Once the team gets organized this summer, the club would take over maintenance and operations for the pool in October.

"The attempt here is to form a relationship with them, to see if we can get something started," said county parks director Rick Buckman.

A full-time agreement would mean the county only has to pay $72,000 each summer to hire lifeguards and pool attendants for the two pools. That's compared with $328,000 the county used to pay to operate the two pools. The county is expected to collect $30,000 in gate fees this year.

In recent years the county closed pools at the Hercules Aquatic Center in Zephyrhills and at Grove Park in New Port Richey. Commissioners saved the remaining two pools from the budget ax last August, but only on the condition that Buckman find agreements to offset operations costs.

Buckman is proposing a temporary agreement between the county and the Lightning that would last from May through September. The group would pay $200 a month to use the facilities. That plan will be presented to commissioners at the April 24 meeting in New Port Richey. A long-term contract would be signed later this fall.

Although he's confident the Hudson area can support a team, Lightning president Brett Ewald said he doesn't know how many kids would sign up the first summer.

"The idea was to try to get started in the summer, and get some momentum," he said.

"I really want to just get a team in the water. If I've got three kids in the water, you can start from there."

Originally Ewald was advising a group of people who wanted to form a new team. But he said it makes more sense for his group to start a new branch.

Several for-profit groups such as Tampa Bay Aquatics and Clearwater Aquatics have teams in several parts of the bay area.

Ewald's team typically has about 150 kids during the summer and about 35 during the winter. But the team has been growing. Last winter he had about 70 kids, and he said he wouldn't be surprised if 200 join this summer.

"Swimming and Land O'Lakes seems to go hand in hand," he said. "We'll see if that same equation works in Hudson."

Though the Lightning would offset the bulk of the pool's costs, Buckman is also considering other revenue sources. He is working with the YMCA to expand its Silver Sneakers fitness program for seniors. His staff is also working with Hudson resident Sparky Judge, a pool regular, to organize a wrestling event that could raise money for operations.

At the April 24 meeting Buckman also plans to ask commissioners to raise gate fees, which are currently $2 for kids and $3 for adults. He said the fees would likely go up by $1 in both categories. The county also would increase the cost of an annual pass for adults and do away with its 10-pass discount.

The two pools are open to the public from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Buckman said the agreement with the Lightning has not had a significant affect on hours that the public can use the Land O'Lakes pool.

Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.

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