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Closing pool will leave swimmers high and dry

The Bardmoor Aquatics Team's last home swim meet of the year, scheduled for Saturday, may be the team's final event ever.

Team members were notified this week that the pool at Bardmoor Tennis & Fitness Center will close Sept. 1.

Bardmoor/Bayou Club Limited, which oversees the fitness center, plans to fill in the pool and pave the area for a golf cart barn, said Kay Caldwell, aquatics team president.

The news was devastating for the almost 500 children who swim there in the summer, Caldwell said Thursday. "My 8-year-old was in tears last night when I told him."

The aquatics team is making a last-ditch effort to save the pool.

Its board Thursday told Bardmoor/Bayou Club Limited that the aquatics program would manage the pool if it stayed open, handling the maintenance, insurance and financing.

Caldwell said club officials, who could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon, promised to think about it.

"We have an inkling of hope," she said.

The pool closing is one of many changes in the works at Bardmoor. The 18-hole golf course is being remodeled, and a new clubhouse will be built.

Bardmoor/Bayou Club Limited had proposed rezoning 7.5 acres of tennis courts near the pool to build 60 town houses. The County Commission rejected that plan last week.

The aquatics team started at Bardmoor 21 years ago with 15 members, Caldwell said.

Seminole High swimming coach Tom Haight became Bardmoor's coach last summer, bringing with him swimmers from the Bath Club in North Redington Beach, which was demolished to make way for condominiums.

The team has about 120 swimmers, ages 4 to 18. Another 350 children receive swimming lessons at the pool each summer.

"It's sad," Haight said. "You hate to see a recreation facility shut down."

Swim team members said they don't want to lose their coach or their pool.

"The facility is so nice," said Sarah Farkash, 12, who has swum in other programs. "My strokes have improved so much since I've been here."

Karen Mandebaker, 12, came to Bardmoor from the Bath Club. She is losing her second club in three years.

"I don't think (they) should close the pool," she said.

Kristin Francis, who will be 12 on Sunday, said she and her friends plan to make signs to protest the closing. "We said we should stay in the pool and sleep on floats to keep them from filling it up," she said.

The team can't move to the adjacent Bayou Club because that pool is not Olympic-sized.

"It's just so hard when it's been such a strong program, and we've worked so hard to get such a great coach," Caldwell said.

Barb Francis, Kristin's mother, has three children on the swim teams. Her family spends four hours a day at the pool, she said. "I can't imagine not having it here."

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