Area swimming coaches voiced both disappointment and satisfaction this week with the Sailfish Aquatics Center in Stuart, the site of last week’s Class 1A and 2A swimming and diving championships.
The swim championships resume Friday with Class 3A and Class 4A on Saturday. It is the first year for the tournament to be held in Stuart after being held at the Orlando YMCA from 2005 to 2012, according to the Florida High School Athletics Association.
Last Friday’s Class 1A meet was delayed at the outdoor facility by 15 minutes due to lightning in the area. Then, the first 30 minutes of the meet took place in the rain.
“I would think they would be flooded with emails from athletes and families that were not happy about that venue after having to endure the rain, lightning and everything else,” said Pine Crest coach Jay Fitzgerald. “I did feel even if we did not have bad weather, there were a number of things that went wrong.”
Fitzgerald said when the meet was held in Orlando, his swimmers could compete in the preliminary heats and when they were done, they could walk across the street to the team hotel and rest. This year, he said, the closest hotel was 10 minutes away and many teams had to stay 30 minutes away from the site.
He also said the center’s staff was not cordial or accommodating to swimmers trying to speak to their coaches.
“I told the guard that this was completely unacceptable,” Fitzgerald said. “He told me that I should have known the rules before the meet started.”
American Heritage coach Nobutaka Tan said the lack of proximity to restaurants and hotels were a problem but it wasn’t all bad.
Tan said he liked the pool and the warm-up area for the athletes.
Although he wished the bathroom situation would have been better.
“There was only one bathroom available and you’re looking at 10 to 15 people waiting in line,” Tan recalled. “Before you went, you had to tell your assistant coaches and your swimmers you were going to the bathroom. I didn’t even want to drink a lot of water because of the wait with the bathrooms.”
FHSAA membership and web specialist Seth Polansky said the organization understands there will be “growing pains” that come with holding a championship event at a new facility.
Polansky said what made this year’s venue stand out was the fact there are only a handful of aquatic centers in Florida that could host the meet. He also said seating was a huge issue. He said three sets of temporary bleachers were brought in to handle the high spectator load.
“About a month later, we’ll sit down and talk about what worked, what didn’t work and what is something we can introduce,” Polansky said. “We’ve had nothing but great correspondence with the people at the facility. I don’t think there will be any major changes but you never know.”
Polanski said the FHSAA is contracted to Sailfish for two more years as a part of a three-year contract. He said there is an option to extend the deal for an additional two years if both sides agree to terms.
“I think it went as well as it did,” Polanski said. “We consider it a success.”
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