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Copyright 2014 Sarasota Herald-Tribune Co.
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Sarasota Herald Tribune (Florida)

When the Arlington Park pool closes for six months of repairs starting Monday, swimmers will scatter across Sarasota.

Some say they'll join the YMCA and move to the nearby pool on Bahia Vista Street. Some plan to drive to the Sarasota County lap pool on Lido Key. Others talk about trying G.T. Bray Park in Bradenton or the Sun-N-Fun RV Resort east of Interstate 75.

The Arlington Park repairs were originally scheduled to start last October, so swimmers knew they were coming. But the change still comes as a shock for many.

"Oh, man," says Dick Murphy, a Sarasota retiree. "When I found out how long it was going to be, I was like, 'What the hell am I going to do for six months?'"

Helen Vetter, another regular at Arlington Park, didn't believe the news when she first heard about it. She still isn't sure where she'll be swimming. Her routine will have to change.

"Maybe I won't swim six days a week," Vetter says. "Maybe just five days a week."

The Tsunami Swim Team, which trains at Arlington Park, will move to the Boys and Girls Club off Fruitville Road. Young swimmers will have to share six lanes in a much smaller pool.

"We'll make it work," says Julie Santiago, a Tsunami coach. "There are plenty of swim teams in this country making do with less."

Arlington Park, which has a gym and pool tucked into a wooded neighborhood off Tamiami Trail, is owned by the city of Sarasota and operated by Sarasota County Parks and Recreation. The $1.1 million in pool repairs, paid for by the city, will focus on the pump room and replacing old filters, heaters and electrical systems.

The pool, with 20 lanes set up for lap swimming, charges $4 for admission, $2 for children and seniors. Rates are similar at the Lido Beach Pool and Pavilion, a smaller pool with six lanes.

The drive from Arlington to Lido is either a minor change or a major hassle, depending on how much swimmers love the view from the Ringling Causeway or hate the traffic on St. Armands Circle.

"It's two miles -- two miles," jokes lifeguard Patricia Ely, herself a masters swimmer. "It's not that far."

Arlington swimmers may worry about overcrowding, but Lido regulars say they shouldn't. They offer the fellowship of long-distance swimmers.

"Of course, we'd welcome them," says Pamela Wilson, a snowbird from Ottawa, Canada. "The more the merrier."

Lido swimmers hope the Sarasota County parks department will expand pool hours to accommodate more swimmers.

Instead of closing Mondays, maybe the pool could open seven days a week. Instead of opening at 10 a.m., maybe it could open at 9 a.m. or earlier.

Lido swimmers remember when county officials threatened to close the pool when there were budget cuts back in 2011. They're eager to share the beauty of a Lido deck where seagrapes frame a picture-postcard view of the Gulf of Mexico.

"This is a marvelous beach and a marvelous pool," says Wilson, who swims more than a mile a day. "I dream about this pool when I'm back home."




February 5, 2014


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