Manatee community pool in danger of closing, official says

skennedy@bradenton.comJune 29, 2013 

MANATEE -- County officials have said they might have to close an underused community pool at the John H. Marble Community Center, but a YMCA official said his organization would be interested in taking over its operation.

"Anything the Y can do, we would be more than happy to do," said Sean Allison, president and chief executive officer of the Manatee County YMCA, earlier this week.

"We would be very much interested in seeing the pool stay open," he said. "It's a very important asset for the community."

Allison explained that the pool, adjacent to the center at 3675 53rd Ave. E., was in a "very underserved" area where youngsters don't have much in the way of recreational activities.

He thought it would be a good site for swimming lessons like the Y provides at three other pools it operates.

However, Allison said he had not been contacted by county officials.

Told of Allison's comment, Manatee County Parks and Recreation Director Cindy Turner said she had "been down that road" with the Y

before and had been unsuccessful in coming to an agreement. But she was willing to try again. "I'll certainly give him a call," she said, referring to Allison.

Turner recently told county commissioners during budget hearings that she feared the county would have to close the pool because of underuse and high costs to operate.

The pool costs $46,000 a year to operate, and has been attracting only 30 regular swimmers during the summer season, she said.

She had been seeking a nonprofit organization or other type of partner to operate the pool, which right now is only open during the summer, she said.

The YMCA at one time operated its South Branch at an adjacent recreation center and offered activities at the pool, too, but in 2010, it moved elsewhere.

YMCA managers complained it was too small, and that it required more than $1 million worth of repairs, the Herald reported at the time. In 2011, county commissioners approved a public-private partnership with The Bible Baptist Church of Bradenton to operate the center.

As part of a five-year agreement, the church said it would pay $10 a month for use of the facility, and make substantial capital improvements to the 14,951-square-foot building, the Herald reported.

The church also agreed to maintain the building and grounds and operate a variety of programs, such as activities for senior citizens, underprivileged children and those battling addictions, the Herald reported.

All programs would be open to the public, the agreement specified. Under terms of the arrangement, the county agreed to continue to operate and maintain other park amenities, including the pool, outdoor basketball court, tennis courts, picnic pavilion, children's playground and public rest rooms.

The 6.73-acre park also has a bocce ball court and a radio-controlled racing track.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.

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