Columbia faces shortage of indoor swim space

November 02, 2005|By TYRONE RICHARDSON | TYRONE RICHARDSON,SUN REPORTER

Columbia Association staff will need to take a hard look at scheduling at the association's four indoor pools this fall and winter to make sure groups have enough time to use limited space at the aquatic facilities now that the association's board apparently has backed away from plans to enclose the Stevens Forest pool to provide more indoor swim space.

Robert D. Bellamy, the association's operations manager for the sport and fitness facilities divisions, said some space will be freed up in January when the hot-water therapy pool at the Athletic Club is completed. Still, the problem of limited indoor swimming remains, some say.

Tony Mazzarella, chairman of the association's aquatics advisory committee, said as the county population increases, the use of indoor pools will rise. One answer, he said, is to build another indoor facility.

The lack of adequate pool time has some swim teams going outside Howard County to conduct practices and other teams limiting the number of members they can accept, he said.

A recent proposal to add a fabric bubble to seasonally enclose the Stevens Forest pool was rejected by the Columbia Association board of directors during its prebudget workshop last month. .

The bubble, a short-term solution for freeing up space for lap swimmers at a cost of $627,000 for the coming fiscal year, was voted down as members noted limited usage for residents and the need to restrain the capital budget with plans for the association's headquarters on Wincopin Circle undetermined.

Barbara Russell, board representative for Oakland Mills, the village where the bubble was proposed, said her initial support for the project diminished when association staff reports showed that community residents would be given limited pool time.

"Our village was made to believe that the bubble would benefit the swim teams, but there would also be time for the pool that would be community time," Russell said.

Russell, who abstained from voting during the prebudget workshop, said she would take the issue to the Oakland Mills Village Board and seek its feedback.

The prebudget workshop agreement is tentative and could change before the final budget is approved in February.

The proposal to build the bubble was sparked by a need to free up lap lanes that usually are limited at Columbia Association indoor pools because of organized swim programs, including water aerobics and swim team practices.tyrone.richardson@baltsun.com

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