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Diving official pushes for board at new pool

With visions of a gorgeous bay backdrop, a diving enthusiast wants to add a high board to the North Shore pool.

For William Walker, it was an indelible Olympic memory.

A diver poised on the board in a moment of concentration, framed by the mountains of Barcelona in the 1992 games.

Walker, president of U.S. Diving, sees the possibility for such television moments here. That's why the St. Petersburg lawyer plans to ask Mayor David Fischer to consider adding a diving well to the $1.2-million lap pool that is to be built alongside North Shore pool on the bay front.

"It is a gorgeous setting and television will absolutely love it," Walker said.

Walker is planning to meet with Fischer on Monday.

The second pool for North Shore, as now planned, would not have a dive well. It would be 25 meters long by 25 yards wide _ a standard lap pool, said Gretchen Tenbrock, city recreation manager.

The second pool would enable the city to attract national and international meets, Tenbrock said. A warmup pool is an important consideration in getting those kinds of competitions.

Besides enabling the city to attract such events, the second pool also would take some of the pressure off heavily used North Shore pool, which operates from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. most days, Tenbrock said.

A dive tank was not part of the original proposal, and Tenbrock said she is not sure what Walker has in mind.

"But I look forward to hearing about it from him," Tenbrock said.

Design of the new pool is set to begin in October 2001, with construction scheduled to begin the following year. A 1,300-square-foot classroom also is planned for the complex, Tenbrock said.

The second pool already has been approved as part of the city's five-year capital improvement program. Money for the project is coming from Penny for Pinellas sales tax revenues, Tenbrock said.

Walker estimated that a dive well would add $500,000 to the cost of the project. Despite the cost, Walker said it is an opportunity that ought not be passed up.

Shortly after the city of Largo built a diving well, it was able to attract a meet featuring Chinese divers. The event, Walker said, drew two consecutive weekends of network television coverage. Walker said he was part of the group that lobbied Largo to build the well.

Walker, who last year was elected president of the 10,000-member diving organization, is married to Neighborhood Times correspondent Joanne B. Walker.

St. Petersburg, Walker said, does not have a facility that is "remotely even close" to being able to host a big-time diving event.

While the city has strong swimming programs and the second North Shore pool would allow it to draw more prestigious competitions, the capacity to hold dive competitions would add immensely to the city's draw, Walker said.

Diving, he said, is an event that lends itself to television coverage while swimming generally does not. However, the synergy between the sports could work in the city's favor.

"That would put St. Petersburg in a very competitive position in the world of aquatic sports," Walker said.

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