Myrtle Beach swim coach hopes to build new pool

akelley@thesunnews.comDecember 3, 2013 

Riptides Swim Team Practice

James Smith, coach of Myrtle Beach Riptides swim team gives instructions for the next round of practice at the Canal Street Recreation Center pool, Monday evening.

CHARLES SLATE — cslate@thesunnews.com Buy Photo

— Competition for pool space has a local swim coach, his team and two other businesses hoping to construct a new community pool in the Carolina Forest area.

James Smith, coach of the Myrtle Beach Riptides swim team, said the property for the pool is off River Oaks Road near S.C. 31 and is under contract, but funding is not secured.

While Smith said a big factor in pursuing a pool is a need for a facility large enough to adequately continue training swimmers, he promises the space won’t be reserved for team members only.

“It’s not just a swim center for the Riptides,” he said. “It’s an all inclusive facility that will have all kinds of aquatic programming, plus a weight room, an aerobics room, a cardio room.”

Horry County officials agree there’s a need for additional pool space in the area, but the county also does not have funding in place.

The Myrtle Beach Riptides would be the primary owner, Smith said. Also in the partnership are Smith’s business, Grand Strand Aquatic Management; a senior wellness and agility company called Furever Young; and Steve Powell’s engineering firm Venture Engineering.

Currently the group is planning to have the main building with two indoor pools, three fitness rooms, an outdoor Olympic length pool and a walking path. The project is expected to cost $3 million, including the land purchase, Smith said.

The Olympic length pool would be the only 50-meter pool in the area. The closest pool for long-course training is in Charleston.

To get shovels in the ground, the swim team started a fundraising campaign and already raised several thousand dollars, Smith said. A bigger fundraising event is in the works for the spring.

Horry County is considering adding a pool to the southern end of the county, said Brent Taylor, county director of parks and recreation.

“A pool is on the list of things we want to do,” he said. “But, we do not have a funding mechanism.”

That list, which Taylor called a need-list, also includes an ice rink, some recreational centers in the rural parts of Horry County, more athletic fields and upgrades to existing facilities.

As for the pool, Taylor said his staff was considering the south end because there are already three pools in Myrtle Beach, two operated by the city and one at the Claire Chapin Epps YMCA.

“The intent was to create a pool that would be hospitable for competitions in addition to exercise and swim teams,” he said.

If Smith’s efforts are successful, however, Taylor said his staff may reevaluate having a pool on their list of potential projects.

Smith said competitions at the pool wouldn’t be much bigger than those currently held at facilities in North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach.

He said the training space for his team and the fitness space for the community are a priority over hosting major events.

“This facility is being built to offer aquatic programming,” he said. “We’re not building this facility with competition in the top one or two spots. The size would have to be so much bigger that it becomes economically impossible to do.”

Smith said plans include membership opportunities, similar to other recreational centers in the area for the community.

If money comes through, Smith said the pool could be open in late 2014 or 2015.

Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381, or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_akelley.

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