Swim team protests pool closing

February 2, 2015. Wingspan Online. 

High school sports and politics don’t often mix, but at Tuesday night’s Buncombe County Commission meeting the two came face to face as approximately 30 members of area high school swim teams protested recent action by the commissioners to close the Zeugner Pool in Skyland.

Members of T.C. Roberson, A.C. Reynolds and West Henderson swim teams, in addition to community members and parents, attended the monthly commission meeting with a clear message: “Keep Zeugner open.”

Buncombe County Manager Brenda Greene announced the closure of the Zeugner pool facility at the Skyland Recreation Center two weeks ago to the Asheville Citizen Times. The swim teams all use the facility for swim practice in addition to a number of club swim teams.

“We are going to keep Zeugner open until the swim season is over, but then we have to deal with the fact that the pool has to close,” Greene told commissioners. “We are finding pools for the next competitive swim season and working with a number of people who already have pools to try to see what we can do to for our swim teams to be able to swim. We always welcome any input.”

Greene also announced a plan to construct a new facility which she said would be ready by the 2016-2017 swim season. Detractors criticized Greene for not having a definite plan related to where swim team members would swim next year. Speakers also cited the potential losses of closing the Zeugner facility.

“This is not going to just affect T.C Roberson, A.C. Reynolds and West Henderson,” T.C. Roberson Swim Coach Jim Cottam said. “There are thousands of people all over Western North Carolina that will be affected. There were 13 meets at the Zeugner facility last year with 1,191 participants on 24 teams which all came back for at least two meets. The other coaches and I conservatively estimated that 60 percent of all swim meets in the area are held at Zeugner.”

Attendees of the commissioners meeting included representatives from the three high school swim teams that use the pool, as well as representatives from various club teams, coaches, former swim team members, parents and community activists. Supporters were easily identifiable by the goggles they wore around their neck. Former Olympic swimmer Mary Montgomery was also in attendance and addressed the commissioners. Current high school swimmers addressed the commissioners. Twelve members of West’s swim team were in attendance.

“My best friend Jake Johnson got me into swimming. He came up to me one day and said ‘George, lets go swim together. You can try something new.’ I took his advice and started swimming, and it’s been the greatest thing,” sophomore swim team member George Tsakalos said at the meeting. “We aren’t asking for much, just ask that you keep it open until a new pool is built. Swimming at Zeugner I have made many memories with my best friends.”

By Ari Sen

Bailey Austin and Arielle Blake wear goggles around their neck in solidarity with the swim team at the Buncombe County Commissioners Meeting.  The West Henderson,  A.C. Reynolds and T.C. Roberson swim teams were all protesting the proposed closure of the Zeugner Center, a facility shared by all three teams. Photo by Ari Sen. 

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