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Swim team pushed out of the pool

It's something the Yukon should be proud of, a Whitehorse swimmer edging her way into the world swimming championships in Rome.

It’s something the Yukon should be proud of, a Whitehorse swimmer edging her way into the world swimming championships in Rome.

But the city’s plan to limit the amount of lanes open to the elite swim team, the Glacier Bears, may prevent future swimmers from reaching the same level of success.

“This is hard to take,” said head coach Marek Poplawski. “We’re talking about high-level swimmers and the lack of space affects the program.”

Poplawski was in Montreal this week to watch swimmer Alexandra Gabor place second in the 200-metre freestyle race and receive the qualifying time she needed to go to Rome.

He’s not impressed with the city’s recent bid to cut back the Glacier Bear’s lane space.

“To have this program not continue as it is because of one lane is ridiculous,” he said.

At Monday’s council meeting, the city recommended council not give the Glacier Bears exclusive use of the Canada Games Centre pool.

Two weeks ago, swim team president Pat Duncan appeared in council with her swim team in tow to ask for near-exclusive use of the pool on weekdays between 4 and 6 p.m., September through to May.

In the past two years, the centre has allowed the team to swim in either one or both of the public lanes during peak times.

Now the city wants that lane back.

“We want to provide consistency and access to the facility specifically in those lanes of swimming,” said associate manager of indoor facilities for the centre, Art Manhire at Monday’s meeting.

“Giving exclusive use of the area, for even a bit of time, especially during prime time, could cost more in membership revenue than the city gains in rental fees,” said Manhire.

The Glacier Bears pay on average $40,000 per six months of lane rental for youth and master swimmers, said Duncan at the council meeting on June 22.

In comparison, the city received more than $1 million in revenue selling memberships.

“The city receives $12 a lane per hour from the swim team,” said Manhire.

“That works out to two paying community members using the pool and the swim team has a lot more people in the lane than that.

The city has offered the swim team more lane hours in the 2009/2010 season to compensate for less lane access.

They will bump the number of lane hours to 202 from 137, but offer those hours during non-peak times, said Manhire.

The problem is that students can’t swim during non-peak times, said Duncan.

“Quite frankly you can’t ask young people to swim at 8 at night and then at 5:30 again the next morning and not complete their homework,” she said at the June 22 council meeting.

Poplawski questions why the public can’t swim at different times of the day.

“Adults can swim in the evenings and mornings,” he said.

But complaints from members not having access to public lanes is fairly common, said Manhire.

“Just the other day, I had a woman come and ask if there was space available for her to swim in the pool,” he said.

“On that day there was, but she shouldn’t have to ask.”

Without those two lanes, however, the swim team will have to take 16 swimmers out of the pool, said Duncan.

“We’re in a position of having to cut back hours for some of the swimmers, which will affect their success in the pool,” she said.

And the team is already crowded as it is, said Poplawski.

“We have 10 kids per lane,” he said.

“The swimmers can’t properly practise butterfly and long-distance swimming because of the shortage of space.”

Another concern for the Glacier Bears is that they “absolutely cannot accommodate” any other swimmers wishing to join the team, even though the interest is there, said Duncan.

“Other clubs of communities of similar size have recognized their swim club and have offered them the lane space,” said Duncan.

The issue will be voted on by council at next Monday’s meeting.

Contact Vivian Belik at