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New school's swimmers will train in West Park

After much discussion a Westchase resident board approves the swim team using part of one of the new pools three hours a day.

By LOGAN D. MABE

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 1, 2001


WESTCHASE -- Swimmers at the new Alonso High School in Town 'N Country will be able to practice at one of Westchase's community pools, a resident board decided Thursday night.

The decision did not come easily, though. Some members of the Westchase Community Association board objected to having large numbers of teens at the unheated pool at West Park Village -- especially if they come from outside Westchase.

"I have some concerns about a very large group being there and sort of, for lack of a better word, hanging out there," said board member Maria Kletchka. "There are homes that are right there at the club. . . . We could have 35 non-resident people using the pool."

Alonso High assistant principal and athletic director Lou Diaz presented the idea to the board at the request of team members' parents.

The swim teams already had one pool lined up for practice, but it is at Copeland Park, near Fowler Avenue and N 15th Street. Diaz said the parents were concerned about the swimmers getting to and from practice in rush-hour traffic. Westchase, by contrast, is just a few miles north of the school.

Diaz said the swimmers would not use all of the lanes, would practice for only three hours each afternoon from August to November, would be supervised at all times by coaches and are required to leave once practice is over.

But Nathan Lafer, a member of the Swim and Tennis Center committee that first considered the proposal, criticized the idea. "I have a real problem with high school kids coming down here, parents or no parents," Lafer said. He also said the team would monopolize the unheated swimming pool and prevent residents from being able to use it.

Other dissenters questioned the idea of allowing non-residents to use a facility paid for and maintained by Westchase residents. Proponents called it a worthwhile community service.

Community association board member Mark Ragusa, a competitive swimmer who has used Copeland Park, said the decision should be a simple one. "To me, this is an absolute no-brainer," said Ragusa. "They're not going to dominate the pool. . . . If anyone has a question, go to Copeland Pool. It's a horrible place, a lousy pool in a horrible area."

Kletchka eventually warmed to the idea and said this was a good way for Westchase to do a neighborly deed.

"I think we have a lot of checks and balances already in place, and I think this is an excellent opportunity to do a community service," she said.

In the end, the board voted 5-1 to allow the teams to use the pool. New board member Anthony Sanchez was the lone dissenting vote.

Diaz thanked the board for their consideration and, before leaving, invited members to visit the school any time and use its facilities.

- Logan D. Mabe can be reached at 813-226-3464 or at mabe@sptimes.com.

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