Q&A with Greensboro Sports Commission President Kim Strable on the Greensboro Aquatics Center

Posted by Andy Durham on December 10, 2009 at 2:11 pm under Amateur, College, High School | 7 Comments to Read

I caught up with the Kim Strable, President of the Greensboro Sports Commission, to get his views on the Greensboro Aquatics Center controversy. Here are some of the responses.

Q: Kim, I’m assuming that you and the Sports Commission are squarely behind the initiative to upgrade the voter-approved swim center to a state-of-the-art aquatics facility at the Coliseum Complex?

A: Andy, the Sports Commission is all about this great City of Greensboro and making it better. Whatever we can do to enhance our tourism profile while improving the quality of life for our citizens, we support. In this instance, we believe constructing the aquatics center to FINA standards [note: FINA is the international federation that oversees competition in swimming, diving, synchronized swimming, water polo and open water swimming] allows us to attract significant local, state, regional, national and even international events that can pump millions of dollars into our local economy. At the same time it will provide a year-round indoor swim facility for our citizens.

Q: Do you think there is fear that the facility will be booked so much that the locals will have only limited access?

A: Maybe, although at the moment there seems to be more discussion about whether or not we could achieve the economic impact that’s been projected. The proposed scheduling plans by Coliseum staff provide all types of public access to include learn-to-swim programs, open recreational swim blocks, therapeutic water activities, team training opportunities, and even a Guilford County School partnership option to ensure that all children will develop basic swimming and water survival skills. The $14 million plus annual economic impact projections were based on just one quality event per month that attracts visitors, so there would be limited displacement for locals.

Q: How confident are we in being able to attract major swimming and diving events?

A: A large portion of the high-end aquatics facilities in the country are owned and operated by large universities, with restrictive calendaring and significant challenges such as parking and staffing. Universities are geared to their own programming and constituencies. We’ve had discussions with USA Swimming, which sanctions over 7,000 events each year, USA Diving with over 60 regional and national events, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association with 3 state championship classifications, the NCAA which increasingly prefers neutral sites for championships, organizers of the National Black Heritage Championships, just to name a few—the market is very strong for venues with these amenities and an adequate seating capacity.

Q: So you’re saying that taking the proposed Aquatics Center to a higher level is a plus for Greensboro?

A: Absolutely. What the voters approved in 2008 was a $12 million Parks and Recreational Facilities Bond for a competitive aquatics center that included a 50-meter pool, a diving well, a warm-up pool and spectator seating with appropriate participant and spectator amenities. It was defined in all city documents and on the ballot as a regional competitive aquatic center. In asking the Coliseum to consider planting the facility at the Coliseum Complex to take full advantage of existing staffing, ample parking, adjacent amenities that would not need to be duplicated in the facility, promotional signage and helping accelerate the City priority to improve and enhance the High Point Road gateway corridor, the City Council was making a wise decision to capitalize on unique opportunities using City-owned and developed land while allowing us to compete for economically attractive events.

Q: Can you offer an analogy from your past experience as a collegiate athletic director that would help folks better understand the points you are making?

A: Sure, I can give you both a personal illustration and one from my collegiate career. When my wife and I bought our home in the early 1990’s and there was such a major shortage of hotel rooms to support the Furniture Market, we relocated to our basement and rented our home for several years to Market guests. We were able to enjoy our home year-round but twice a year received the benefit of this rental income that allowed us to make home improvements, upgrades that otherwise might not have been possible. Similarly, having an aquatics facility that can take advantage of special, unique guests who need this type of venue become value-added for our local community.

Q: And the college example?

A: When we doubled the number of sports offerings and quadrupled the number of student-athletes at Greensboro College in the mid 90’s, it was simply a direct result of supplying a demand. If a graduating high school baseball player wanted to play college baseball and your college did not offer that opportunity, chances were slim they would be interested in your school. Using the same analogy, to the best of my knowledge Greensboro has never hosted a major indoor swimming or diving championship—we haven’t had the facility to meet that demand. If we don’t build this facility to FINA specifications with the accompanying spectator seating, it will severely limit Greensboro’s opportunities to be a championship destination.

Q: Bottom line Kim, will the Aquatics Center as proposed at the Coliseum cost tax payers more money?

A: No—the cost of the upgraded facility will be paid for out of future hotel/motel occupancy taxes. In other words, overnight visitors to Guilford County will be footing the bill for the additional construction cost. The tax payers get the facility they wanted and approved in 2008 and visitors we attract will essentially cover the upgrading our center to international standards.

Q: Final question—if built as planned, will this make this facility the best aquatics center in the State of North Carolina?

A:Yes, indeed. Our spectator capacity will be 800-1200 greater than the two largest facilities in the State and the multi-use characteristics of this aquatics center under one roof will make Greensboro a model for which we can all be proud.


  • Eddie Willis said,

    While I respect Mr. Strable’s opinion, there has not been a single project that Matt Brown has been associated with that has finished the project within budget or achieved the revenue forecasts that have come from him. If you were to let the owners and management of the Greensboro Grasshoppers oversee these projects instead of a bunch of bureaucrats who either don’t know “s— from shinola” or just do not care, then we will continue to p— money away. It is time we ran this community like a business instead of a funnel!!!!!
    Only my opinion, so I am sure there will be plenty of disagreement.
    These people all sing from the same script!!!!!

  • Bob said,

    Thanks for doing this, Andy.

    If they build it, people will come!

  • David Mitchell said,

    This is the best piece of information that I have seen so far on the proposed Aquatics Center. Other sites and even the local papers especially the Rhino Times seem to be missing the boat.

    I think many people in this town must have a fear of water. What is everyone afraid of? Look at all the money that has already been wasted on the Greensboro Coliseum. For once, this project might really work.

    In order for all of this to work, new leadership needs to be brought in. Matt Brown the Greensboro Coliseum managing director has to be fired. The City Manager will have to step up and see to that this is done. If the Aquatics Center is approved, then Brown must be out quickly.

    The city would be better served as Mr. Willis stated if they brought in the Greeensboro Grasshoppers staff and had them running the Coliseum. The Grasshoppers operation has been a success.

    With a slight staff increase the Greensboro Grasshoppers could also operate the Coliseum and the swim center and if that were the case, I feel that Jim Melvin and the Bryan Foundation would step in and make up the difference to needed to fund the Greensboro Aquatics Center at the Greensboro Coliseum.

    There also has to be major monetary involvement from Henry Fourier and the Greensboro Visitors and Convention Bureau. What has happened to all the Hotel and Motel tax money?

    Certain City Council members have done nothing but hurt and hindered this project and for that they should be ashamed as should Rhino Times editor John Hammer.

    There you have it. We need new leadership at the Coliseum and we need an Aquatics Center.

  • Bob said,

    Rhino has no credibility. Why even mention them?

    Remember they were against First Horizon Park, something that was privately built. Recall the proposal they supported that would prevent a “baseball stadium in the central business district.”

  • College Students for the Aquatics Center said,

    I am a former swimmer at Grimsley High School now enrolled at UNCG and we will rally the students for the Swim Center to built if it turns out there is another vote on the issue.

    We will go to every campus in this town and rally every eligible voter to come out and support this cause and they will.

    UNCG, NC A&T, GTCC, Greensboro and Guilford College students will stand up and vote on this bond issue.

    We and other progressive thinking individuals can get this passed. This is our future and we are getting tired of people like John Hammer and Bill Knight standing in our way.

    This is now a war and we will be heard from and we will also be heard from in the next election for Mayor and City Council.

    It is time to unite and do something positive for our City. We will leave our mark and we can vote and you can not stop us.

    College Students for the Aquatics Center

  • Andy said,

    I think Mr. Mitchell’s son David brings up a number of key points. I have known and respected this family for many years…….

  • dale fulton said,

    that’s another reason why you little weenies should not be allowed to vote—-raise the vote back to 21 except for those young people in the military. Go swim in your bathtubs with your rubber duckies, and let your parents continue to pay the water bill!!!!!
    dale fulton