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First Coast High School Swimming Pool Update

Hi NFS Families-

Many of you are aware of the swimming pool situation at First Coast High School (home to many of our current and former swimmers) but in case you are not, please read the following letter from the head swim coach there. I was present for both of the town-hall meetings that Councilman Holt "led" and all I will say is that a wonderful opportunity for our city, and swimming community, is on the verge of being wasted.

If you don't know the area where the pool is being planned, it is near the airport and the new River City Market Place, which is an ideal location for a "major" meet, given the restaurants and hotels in the area.  If this was done right, it would give Jacksonville an opportunity to host FLAG's, Sr. Champs, etc. as well as state high school meets. The fact that it is 20 minutes from our home pool is a nice benefit too.

First Coast High school is one of a small number of Duval County Public High Schools that don't have their own pool. The team is forced to practice at the city pool, which is a few miles away (and not the best facility in town). The money is there, the project was green-lit and it is being held up for reasons that are un-explainable.

I was forwarded this e-mail from former NFS Board Member (and Rachel’s mom) Trescha Nicols. It isn’t my intention to use NFS as a political sounding board (hopefully this isn’t taken that way), but this is an important issue to the Jacksonville swimming community (and some of our current swimmers) and I think that everyone needs to have the opportunity to know what is going on. Here is a quick rundown, but if anyone is interested in more of the issue, I urge you to contact Coach Soder below, or other City Council Members.

Hello fellow Buccaneers (past and present),

As many of you know over $4,000,000 was earmarked for an indoor aquatic center located on our old Drivers Ed parking lot by the previous councilman Warren Alverez. Those of you who are new to First Coast may not know three years ago, we as a school and with over two hundred people from the community met with the current councilman Ray Holt in our auditorium to persuade him to follow through with this project.  Councilman Holt had previously said at another Town Hall meeting, it was his decision alone not to build the aquatic facility, and our meeting also ended poorly as he refused to take questions openly from the floor.

In the months following some other meetings were held to discuss the feasibility and benefits of bringing a year round aquatic facility to the northside. However, even with overwhelming support from the community to build the pool, Ray Holt continued to bring up exaggerated reasons why this pool was not feasible, stating  things like $1,000,000 per year in maintenance. At which point I said sign me up…I’ll take that job!

The $4,000,000 is earmarked in legislation for the aquatic center only, so it takes 10 city council votes to reallocate those funds. I was told today Ray Holt has an attorney drawing up the paperwork to put this before the city council and move $2,400,000 into a road project that connects CSX to the Port Authority at some new terminal they’re building.

I’ve coached swimming at First Coast for 22 years, managed the Oceanway pool in the 90’s (that pool was at capacity back then), and worked Ocean Rescue at Huguenot Beach for 11 years. I know the benefits of a good aquatic program and have pulled bodies out of the Ft George inlet for some who never had access to those aquatic programs.  Unfortunately we lost the battle for a descent aquatic facility two years ago, but I always wondered when and where that money was going turn up. Now I know.

Ron Soder

11th Grade Counselor

Boys Head Swim Coach

First Coast High School

590 Duval Station Rd

Jacksonville. FL   32218

(904)757-0080   ext 125

[email protected]