Swimmers leave municipal pool

Thursday, December 27, 2007

One of Cape Girardeau's swim clubs and at least one high school team have switched from the city pool to Southeast Missouri State University's new aquatic center.

The Southeast Aquatic League (SEALs) signed a one-year contract in November. Jackson Public Schools also recently inked a deal. Southeast's aquatic center opened Dec. 20.

SEALs head coach Larry McGinnis said the university offered consistent practice space and time at the rate of $10,500 a year.

McGinnis said he pursued the contract with Southeast, despite its pool being smaller than the city's Olympic-sized pool, to save money. SEALs swimmers pay more than members of their rival swim club, the Gators, to use city pool most call the "Bubble."

"You don't have a situation in town where there are 20 Little League teams, where they pay different rates to use the ball fields, or kids on Osage [Community Centre] basketball teams paying different rates to go on the court," he said.

On average, he said, 25 swimmers from his club were using the city's pool six days a week. But each swimmer paid the same rate as any visitor, between $2.25 for those 13 and younger and $3 for those 14 and older.

"What is boiled down to was that we were paying anywhere from $14,000 to $15,000 a year," McGinnis said.

The Gators pay less than $6,000, according to the Gators' head coach, Steve Franklin.

Gators' monthly training fees range from $50 to $110. SEALs training costs $60 a month for those 12 and younger; $75 for those 13 and older.

Dan Muser, director of Cape Girardeau's parks and recreation department, said the price difference has everything to do with history. The Gators were founded more than 25 years ago and helped get the Cape Central Municipal Pool built, he said. The Seals started less than seven years ago.

Muser said the Gators' contract began when the pool was built 27 years ago.

Franklin said the city's contract guarantees his swimmers space and time, though Cape Girardeau's high school swim team has priority. The club pays $500 for tournament reservations.

"The difference between the Seals and us is that we host swim meets here in town," Franklin said. "We bring in outside revenue, along with the summer league."

He is not happy to hear swimmers are leaving the Bubble, but said he called Southeast to compare rates between the two.

Franklin said swimmers suffer from the five weeks of shutdown to remove and replace the temporary covering each season at the city pool. Franklin said he lost 65 percent of the swimmers signed up for fall while the Bubble was closed for repairs.

Chad Sierman, assistant director of aquatics for Southeast, spent six years working at the city pool, the last three as director of aquatics. He said the contracts with Southeast mean the city will lose guaranteed revenue.

John Martin, athletic director for Jackson Public Schools, said the new girls high school swim team started practicing at Southeast on Dec. 20. He said the contract ensures a regular 3:30 to 5 p.m. practice time. Jackson's first meet is Jan. 3.


335-6611, extension 127

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