Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

Y’s departure leaves scarcity of pool space

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When the DC-YMCA closed the pool in Montgomery Village in March, it cited the mounting costs of running an underutilized pool as the main reason.

The local community pleaded with the DC-Y to keep the pool open and demonstrated the ability to raise funds to help support the pool, showed the pool use was higher than stated by the DC-Y and pointed out the scarcity of pool space for private swim teams in the county. But the DC-Y insisted that selling the Upper Montgomery County YMCA buildings and using the funds to support its other programs was the only responsible option.

However, several months later, the UMCY buildings sit as vacant eyesores in the heart of the community. A local business owner has expressed interest in buying the pool, but was told once in the early spring and then in the early summer that the buildings had been sold. But this appears not to be the case, as The Gazette reported that the buildings remain under the DC-Y ownership.

The DC-Y owes the community the answer to a number of questions.

Why haven’t they sold the buildings when in the spring they were so eager for the funds from the sale to support their other programs? Why won’t the DC-Y let the local business owner look over the pool building? Why does the DC-Y keep telling this business owner that the buildings are sold, when they are not? Why did the DC-Y remove the pumps and starting blocks from the pool the day after its closing? Could it be that the Y does not want this building to be operated as a pool?

The final blow to our community is the folding of the 25-year-old UMCY Stingray Swim Team.

The loss of this team sends its 90 swimmers scrambling for alternatives. The loss of a team that can participate in the Y league is a big one. The Y meets were mostly dual meet formats like the summer leagues, which are great for swimmers of all levels. Competition at this type of meet is at the team and individual level. Now teams affiliated with Potomac Valley Swimming are the only option. These meets are much bigger and the emphasis is more on the individual.

The reason the UMCY Stingray Swim Team must fold is simple, there is a scarcity of pool space for private swim teams in the county, just as we told the DC-Y in February.

There is much anger and bitterness over the closing of the Y pool and the folding of the Singrays in our community.

Karen Neilson, Montgomery Village

The writer is a former UMCY Stingray parent.