The high school boys and girls defending state swim champions are from Fort Collins.
In the 2014-15 school year, seven individuals or relays from Fort Collins won state titles.
Going into this weekend’s Class 5A girls swimming state championships at Edora Pool Ice Center, seven local swimmers (or relays) are seeded in the top three of their race. Fossil Ridge is expected to be in the mix to defend its team title.
The city’s swimming scene is thriving, but its facilities are overcrowded. Four high school teams, two youth clubs and the public vie for space in two public pools.
“Bottom line is it would hugely benefit all of the swimmers in Fort Collins if the school district would partner with the city and build a pool,” Fossil Ridge coach Carolyn Fries said. “It’s frustrating with a city the size of Fort Collins that we have two pools for four high schools.”
Fossil Ridge and Fort Collins high schools divvy up time at EPIC, with practice slots at 5:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. They split them so they share equal amounts of the dreaded morning practices.
Poudre and Rocky Mountain do the same thing at Mulberry Pool. At both pools, club practices follow them in the afternoon.
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“The city needs extra lanes. Not just for us competitive teams, but for the lap swimmers that show up when teams are there and they don’t have places to go,” Rocky Mountain swim coach Rob Huey said. “I feel bad for the individuals who want to go and get a workout in and there’s not room.”
A partnership like the one Fries suggests exists in Thornton, with the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center. VMAC is home to Adams Five Star District teams, built in partnership with the city of Thornton. It cost $19.6 million to build in 2009. But there is no movement for a similar addition in Fort Collins. VMAC is similar to EPIC and is also used to host state competitions.
As part of its long-range plan, PSD has proposed a new athletic complex to be built with a new high school on the east side of the city.The new facility, at an estimated $15 million to $17 million price range, is a couple million dollars less expensive than VMAC’s price tag and would be used for many sports.
It would have a multi-use field for football, soccer and lacrosse and seating for 6,000 fans in addition to a track. PSD is also hoping to add synthetic turf fields at each high school. The plan still needs to pass a bond vote in November.
“From (Poudre School District’s) perspective … PSD doesn’t feel like it can be in the business of operating a pool,” PSD athletic director Ron Alexander said. “It’s a prohibitive business for a school to try and do it.”
Total annual costs to run EPIC (including ice rinks) are $2.8 million, according to the city’s recreation department.
Loveland High School renovated its pool in 2009 for $2.9 million, and estimated pool upkeep is around $700,000 to $900,000 per year. That school is part of Thompson School District, whose three high schools each have a pool. Windsor High School also has its own pool.
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Alexander pointed out that city pools can generate income with events and activities, while a school-run pool can only be used for schools.
Everyone agrees on the problem. The difficulty is no one is willing or able to shoulder the costs needed to fix it.
A new recreation center in the southeast of Fort Collins near Fossil Ridge is still years away from being built, with still no guarantee it will have lap lanes.
In the meantime, the programs will keep working with what they have.
“We have incredible programs here in town,” Poudre coach Rob Breshears said. “You would think we would have more pool space, but it’s cool to see that the programs have been able to develop athletes with not having as much space as would be ideal.”
A possibility of two new high schools could further strain scheduling.
“With the growth of the city, it’s got to be addressed at some point. It’s something that’s on everyone’s radar,” Alexander said. “What’s left still to be decided is how to get it done.”
Follow sports reporter Kevin Lytle at twitter.com/Kevin_Lytle and at facebook.com/KevinSLytle.