Prominent swim coach hopes to operate Manatee's Marble Park pool

Sarasota Swim Academy leader proposes operating underused pool at Manatee County's John H. Marble Park

skennedy@bradenton.comDecember 26, 2013 

Photo provided Swim coach Ira Klein has submitted a preliminary proposal to operate John H. Marble Park pool.

MANATEE -- A local coach, who has trained six Olympians and dozens of other champions as well, has submitted a preliminary proposal to operate an underused swimming pool in Manatee County.

Ira Klein, head coach at the Sarasota Swim Academy, expects to discuss details of a preliminary proposal to operate John H. Marble Park pool with county officials after the first of the year, he said Thursday.

"Our goal is to put our team in there year-round," said Klein, who added that the pool at 3675 53rd Ave. E. is currently closed.

His draft proposal envisions various programs aimed at everyone from toddlers to youth swim teams and adults and senior citizens.

Klein, who coached Olympic Trial finalists for 20 years and is a two-time past president of the American Swim Coaches Association, said he has restructured a corporation under the name "Klein Swim Academy," and is awaiting final approval of its nonprofit status.

"We will work under the DBA (name) of Manatee Swim Academy, as well as SRQ Tsunami, for both youth and adult programs," the draft proposal said.

Currently, more than a dozen middle- and high-school aged competitive swimmers from the Lakewood Ranch area travel to Sarasota's Arlington Park to train, Klein said.

County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, who has been part of the discussions about the pool's future, said Thursday she could not say much because a final arrangement has yet to be worked out.

"Yes, I do know they are talking, a bid has been proposed, but that's as far as it goes," said Baugh. "We are hoping to work out some sort of deal, but what it will be at this point, I don't know; I know Ira and his team are very well-respected in the area."

Among the programs that Klein hopes to operate are those for adult fitness training (Masters); youth swim team (high school aged swimmers); adult water aerobics; swim lessons; community open swim; youth swim team (middle school and younger, summer recreation swim team); adult fitness training, and open lap swimming, according to the draft proposal.

Last summer, former Parks and Recreation Director Cindy Turner told county commissioners she feared the pool would have to be closed because it was under-utilized and operational costs are high.

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

The YMCA at one time operated its South Branch at an adjacent recreation center and also operated activities at the pool, but in 2010, it moved elsewhere. Bible Baptist Church now operates the community center at the county-owned park under a lease arrangement, but its pastor has said that the church does not want to operate the pool because of liability concerns.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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