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Largo seeks national diving competition for Southwest Pool

LARGO — If a bid from Largo's recreation department goes as planned, the city's Southwest Pool could host a national diving competition.

Aquatics director Mark Abdo said the city is vying to secure the USA Diving Junior East Championship in 2012.

While not the largest aquatics event, the competition would draw about 250 divers and prove what many who utilize the pool already know — that the facility is one of the best in the area, if not the state.

The city will find out the results of its bid at the end of the year, Abdo said.

But as city staffers and pool users have said in the past, not everyone knows such a pool exists in the city.

The championship could increase visibility for the pool, and Largo, said Cashel Mack, head coach for the competitive West Florida Lightning Aquatics team.

"A lot of people in Largo who would use it as a recreation facility don't know about it," Mack said. "We have one of the top diving facilities in the country. It's really underutilized."

What sets the pool apart from many others, other than its Olympic size and depth, are its diving platform and springboards.

"They're few and far between," said Mack, speaking of the number of public pools in Florida that have dedicated diving platforms.

The Southwest Pool was one of the city amenities that was talked about this year as a possible cut from next year's budget. While such talk of closure never came close to becoming reality, the notion that the pool is vulnerable startled users like Mack.

The city's current efforts to cut the budget have put added pressure on Largo's Recreation, Parks and Arts department, which saw some of the most extensive cuts this year.

The pool, Abdo said, has potential to prove its worth in such a climate.

"It's important to pursue these events not only for the notoriety of the sport but for the revenue possibilities," Abdo said.

One case in point is the U.S. National Synchronized Swimming Team's use of the pool last summer as a practice location for the 2009 World Games.

Abdo said such events bring guests for hotels, and diners to local establishments.

"The United States synchro team — it did a lot for the pool, the community. There's an economic value there to the community," Abdo said.

Another revenue possibility broached by West Florida Lightning Aquatics president Robert Healy to city commissioners at a meeting this week was swim lessons.

Healy and the aquatics team approached the city with a plan to introduce year-round Swim America lessons to the pool. Under the proposal, the city would receive half the swim lesson proceeds without paying any additional staff.

"We think it's a win-win situation for the city to let us teach these types of lessons," Healy said.

Vice Mayor Woody Brown directed the city staff to look into the proposal.

Dominick Tao can be reached at dtao@sptimes.com or (727) 580-2951.

Largo seeks national diving competition for Southwest Pool 09/25/10 [Last modified: Saturday, September 25, 2010 5:30am]
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