Memorial Day traditionally kicks off the beginning of swimming pool season, but in Aberdeen young swimmers are having a hard time making a splash. The diving boards that had been part of the swim center for years were inexplicably torn out in recent weeks.
To make matters worse, this was to be the inaugural year for the Aberdeen Penguins Dive Team, who were to practice at the city’s swim club. The team was set to kick off the season with a diving clinic on May 31 and June 1, but those plans are now up in the air – because the diving boards are not.
The former YMCA Swim Center, now known as the Aberdeen Swim Club, sits on Old Robin Hood Road near Paradise Road and is leased out by the city for management by a private entity. The facility features an Olympic-sized swimming pool, volleyball court, picnic area and, until quite recently, diving boards. It was also the historic site of the now-infamous “Michael Jordan Dive.”
Although it remains unclear exactly why diving boards were removed – and why City Hall and the swim teams were not in contact regarding the removal – there is some indication the City of Aberdeen’s Department of Public Works crew removed the diving boards because the structure was deemed unsafe by a city inspector.
According to an email from a coach to the dive team, the boards were taken to a welder to make some necessary repairs and would be replaced if possible. However, the welding company said that they couldn’t or wouldn’t do the repairs. More from the email…
Obviously, not having diving boards makes it pretty hard to field a diving team. So, I am disappointed and frustrated but I am more disappointed for the kids that were looking forward to participating on this team this Summer. We are currently in communication with the City of Aberdeen to see about purchasing new diving boards for the pool. Hopefully, they will agree to do this as the diving boards are a major attraction for people joining our club and for the camps that they have at the club. Aberdeen has the best diving well in all of Harford County and has the only 3-meter diving board and it would be a shame to lose that.
The communication may be paying off. On May 27, the first night of practice for the Penguin swim team, the diving coach informed the parents that Aberdeen City Councilman Mike Hiob had been in touch and said that the city would in fact replace the diving boards.
While the city’s purchase of new diving equipment would surely bring a swift resolution to this diving debacle, and get the swim team back into the water, it opens up a series of new questions.
Why exactly was the diving equipment removed from the swim club and if it was, in fact, deemed unsafe by a city inspector, who was notified? What’s more, there have been rumors that the city DPW has tried to remove the diving boards in each of the last several years. If that’s the case, was it because of the same safety problems? Did the City of Aberdeen know local youths were using potentially hazardous diving equipment?
Presumably, like any other facility, the swim club should be on a maintenance schedule, but is the City of Aberdeen responsible for funding those repairs (as it is with Ripken Stadium) or is the entity leasing the swim center tasked with paying for the improvements?
If the city is responsible for swim club maintenance, it stands to reason the replacement of diving boards should be noted in a budget somewhere. Were the diving boards due to be replaced this year anyway or is this another unanticipated expenditure? On the heels of the mayor and city council reducing the city tax rate, where will the diving board replacement funding come from?