Though a few hurdles still stand in the way, the Land O’ Lakes Lightning Swim Team is confident that a planned expansion into Hudson will soon become reality.
“(I) just signed the contract 30 minutes ago,” said Brett Ewald, president of the nonprofit swim team on Friday, March 23.
That contract is with Pasco County. It affords the Lightning the ability to establish a swim team at the Veteran’s Memorial Park pool in Hudson. The team would be for swimmers ages 5 to 18 in the Hudson and New Port Richey areas. The Lightning offers both developmental and competitive swimming to youngsters in Pasco County and beyond.
The original Land O’ Lakes branch swims at the Land O’ Lakes Recreation Complex’s pool. The team was responsible for keeping the pool open last year when county budget cuts threatened to close it. It currently has about 105 swimmers on the roster, some who travel from West Pasco to take part in training and competitive meets.
The new Hudson branch would target swimmers from the West Pasco area. Ewald said the hope is to give children on that side of the county an opportunity to get involved in an organized swim team. It would target not only new swimmers, but also high school-aged athletes. The Hudson branch of the Lightning would likely pull from Fivay, Ridgewood, River Ridge, Mitchell, Hudson and other high schools in the area.
Before the Hudson branch can open, the county commission has to approve the contract, Ewald said. He anticipates that will occur in the very near future.
“(We’re) hoping to have swimmers in the pool by May 1,” he said.
In the meantime, organizers are putting together the structure for the team. Ewald said the branch will be run by parents from West Pasco and will likely have a slightly different fee structure than the Land O’ Lakes branch.
“A group of parents will be running that side,” Ewald said. “Their background is in fundraising, so I think they’re going to do a ton more fundraising.” That, he said, could mean reduced fees for swimmers and scholarship opportunities.
While the final details are being worked out for the Hudson branch, the Land O’ Lakes team is still welcoming new members. Year-round registration is available on the team’s home page. Youngsters who sign up also have to carry USA Swimming insurance. For more information, visit the team’s website.