Locals push City Council to add new aquatic center

Palm Coast has outgrown its two existing pools, members of local swim teams told the City Council at a meeting April 5.

Swim team members at a City Council meeting April 5. Photo courtesy of the city of Palm Coast
Swim team members at a City Council meeting April 5. Photo courtesy of the city of Palm Coast
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Local swimmers want a new, bigger pool: About 50 people affiliated with the local Flagler Fluid swim team and Synchro Belles youth synchronized swimming group showed up at a City Council meeting on April 5 to urge council members to back the creation of a new aquatic center.

"I think we owe it to them to look harder, much harder, as to what are the possibilities."


— EDDIE BRANQUINHO, city councilman

The group's appearance at the meeting comes about a week after the School Board opted to cut hours at the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club — one of the two community pools in Palm Coast, alongside the city's Frieda Zamba pool — and a week before the City Council is scheduled to discuss an aquatic center assessment report at an April 12 workshop.

At least one councilman was moved by the group's presentation.

"I think we owe it to them to look harder, much harder, as to what are the possibilities," Councilman Eddie Branquinho said. 

Among the speakers were children young enough that the microphone on the podium in the council chambers had to be redirected to point downward so that they could use it.

"We would like to build an aquatic center so the whole community can swim, do fun activities in the pool and also enjoy the nice summers and do fun things," a young Flagler Fluid member said.

Another young student said his family has had to drive to Jacksonville for him to practice. 

"I think we should have a bigger pool, because I don't like driving to Jacksonville," he said. "... I don't like driving."

Flagler Fluid coach Carrie Purdy told the council that Flagler is one of only a handful of Florida's 67 counties that doesn't have a 50-meter pool.

She'd like Flagler to have a "proper aquatic center," with an attached youth center, she said. 

"The community here has outgrown both pools, driven by increased development," she said. "They no longer are able to utilize it [for] competition, which affects our team and the kids in this community."

An aquatic center, she said, would let the city host events for revenue.

With the community's current two pools, she said, "We're not able to have competitions. We're not able to provide applications for the Belles as well. Nor does it support either high school swim team. Allowing this mediocrity is not okay. It's not setting the kids up for the community, for success."

Resident Heidi Gerkin said that she'd worked as a swim instructor for a YMCA in Louisiana, and the community there had fought for years to build a bigger facility. When they finally did, she said, it supported hundreds of swim team participants, plus other activities.

"This is something that we could do here," she said. "I'm not asking just to build it. I'm asking you to look at what other areas are doing, and let's do the best one in the entire state of Florida and get all that business coming here. ... It'll benefit the entire community, both in the way that they're able to access the facility and use it but also the money and the revenue that it could bring in."

Resident Claudette O'Dowd said swim lessons have been important for her two children with special needs.

"This is one of the very few activities that they're able to do, because they're on a team but they're still focused on what's going on in their head," she said. "So I just hope that we do get this aquatic center, so that we can also keep our money in our community and bring money from other towns."



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