Manatee County plans call for festive re-opening of Marble Park Pool

skennedy@bradenton.comMay 13, 2014 

MANATEE -- County parks officials have proposed a plan to reopen the John H. Marble Community Pool to the public for the summer with a festive event.

At a Tuesday workshop, the commission is slated to discuss a "Splash into Summer" event set for June 14 that calls for a community block party and grand re-opening featuring a cannonball splash contest, open swim, live music, limbo contest and swim races, county officials said Monday.

The underused pool, which last year nearly closed for good, will re-open at a cost to the county of $42,000, according to agenda documents.

Plans have $16,235 in new equipment, including a 16-foot portable rock climbing wall, part of a revitalization of the aged facility, documents said.

Once fall arrives, the pool could be used by high school swim teams and swim clubs, said Mike Whelan, division manager/recreation for the county's Parks and Natural Resources Department.

In the meantime, the county plans to request proposals for year-round use of the 25-meter, unheated pool at 3675 53rd Ave. E., according to Whelan.

"We hope to successfully negotiate with a respondent to an RFP (request for proposals), but we'll probably need time," said Whelan, emphasizing that he hoped for a good response. "We anticipate a year-round agreement toward the first of the year in 2015."

A tentative proposal for year-round use from a Sarasota swim club that is already under review is still a possibility, said Ira Klein, head coach at the Sarasota Swim Academy, on Monday.

"It comes down to a decision by the commissioners whether it will stay open year-round," said Klein.

Meanwhile, the summer schedule calls for the pool to open to the public on weekends from May 17-June 8; after June 8, the pool will be open Tuesdays through Sundays through Aug. 15. The current use fee is $1.88 per swimmer, plus tax.

County officials hope to host a "free week" June 10-June 14.

Surveys of parks users, via social media and other methods, found that people just didn't know the pool was there, or that it was open to the public, said Melissa Nell, parks department division manager for education and volunteers.

"People thought it still was managed by the YMCA," she said, referring to the Y's previous use of the facility.

"We're trying to get the community to understand it's there, and to use it," she added.

The YMCA at one time operated its South Branch at an adjacent recreation center and also offered 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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