MANATEE -- A prominent Sarasota swim coach's plan to operate the underused John H. Marble Park Community Pool year-round appears to have been stalled by the high cost of equipment and staffing.
Ira Klein, head coach at the Sarasota Swim Academy, last year offered a preliminary proposal to operate the Manatee County pool after the Manatee County Commission discussed closing it and filling it in. A county official said Monday the proposal is being held until financing issues are resolved.
Klein reiterated Monday he still hopes to discuss possibilities for year-round programs at the pool, 3675 53rd Ave. E. The aquatic programs would be aimed at everyone
from toddlers to youth swim teams and adults and senior citizens.
His proposal includes ways to bring in revenue. Proper programming would help pay operational costs, he said.
"My proposal explains what would be needed to run year-round properly, but we didn't discuss how to pay for it," said Klein. "We did have meetings up until close to the beginning of the summer, and didn't really move forward then."
Klein, who has coached Olympic Trial finalists for 40 years and is a two-time past president of the American Swim Coaches Association, planned to operate the programs through a nonprofit corporation he formed called the Klein Swim Academy Inc.
He now runs swim programs at G.T. Bray Park in Bradenton, and also operates programs in Sarasota at Arlington Park Aquatic Center.
While Klein's proposal for operating Marble Park year-round was "viable and do-able programming," it contained insufficient guarantees that all costs could be covered, said Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department.
The pool requires expensive new equipment plus additional staffing for year-round operations, said Hunsicker.
"What Mr. Klein is asking for is to have a viable, year-round operation at the Marble Pool, which is also very much in keeping with the parks and natural resources department's long-term planning for the facility," said Hunsicker. "However, to equip the Marble pool for year-round use, which includes heaters and overhead lighting and everything necessary for a 365-day operation, requires hundreds of thousands of dollars that we do not have in our budget."
There are competing demands for improvements at other pools, along with requests for new pools and splash parks elsewhere such as Palmetto, which has no public county pool, said Hunsicker.
In order for tax money to pay for improvements, the project must first be listed as a priority by county commissioners, with whom the final decision rests, said Hunsicker.
"We looked at the proposal and are holding it in the event we can get through financing issues," he said. "We would certainly continue to entertain proposals from Coach Klein or any other swim group."
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.