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Have Aquatic Centre critics been silenced?

HAS all the political wrangling which preceded the opening of the $23.4 million Aquatic Centre dissipated?Have all the bones of contention, all issues including costs and design, been swept under the carpet?Certainly it would seem that way on the basis of comments made by both political parties and the National Sport Centre Board of Trustees.Maybe the sceptics who warned that the facility would never meet Bermuda's needs have been silenced.Or are they simply biding their time before saying ‘we told you so’?Current Sports Minister Wayne Scott couldn't wait to come onboard this week as plaudits rained on the new Centre, which will be officially opened in two weeks’ time.Former Sport Minister Glenn Blakeney had always insisted Bermuda would be proud of the latest addition to the Prospect complex.And naturally the Trustees, headed by Sean Tucker, have always been confident that the design was exactly what Bermuda needed to enhance the sport.Even national swimming coach Ben Smith has expressed his admiration.Perhaps the political football that has been bouncing around the pitch for so many years has finally been booted into touch.The 50-metre pool, the first of its kind on the Island, has been endorsed by FINA, the sport's world governing body.Looking at the finished product, most would reach the conclusion that the project has exceeded all expectations.So why so much controversy?Have the naysayers all been proved wrong? Have they all had a change of mind?It’s worth reflecting on some of the adverse comments, starting with Bermuda Amateur Swimming Association who were against the project from the very beginning.It was, BASA claimed, the wrong design and too costly too maintain.The popular Myrtha pool used by many colleges across the USA was, they said, far cheaper to build than the concrete pool which is now in place. And it would be much cheaper to run.Originally it was estimated that a concrete pool could be constructed for $15 million. BASA contended at least three or four million dollars could be chopped off that figureWe all know estimates tend to expand as time goes by. Early in 2012, building costs had swelled to $20 million. Finally it’s been completed for the grand total of $23.4m a far cry from figures cited over two years ago.BASA weren’t the only ones to voice their protests.The Bermuda Enviromental and Sustainability Taskforce (BEST) also expressed their concern over design and costs.And there was no one more critical than Scott’s OBA colleague Anthony Francis who just five months ago chastised the Trustees and the PLP government for going $5m over budget.Francis contradicted both the Trustes and Glenn Blakeney.The pool had only the eight lanes. Ten are required to meet Olympic standards, he stated.The fact that at one end of the pool was four feet deep and the other 16 feet deep (in order to accommodate the divers) meant that fast times couldn’t be achieved.So, who said what:BEST: “Upon further investigation, it appears that the Bermudian taxpayer may once again foot the bill for an overly-expensive, outdated and inefficient project, designed with limited foresight by foreign consultants and which, due to inherent design flaws, will have limited practical use, unreasonably high running costs and an unnecessarily large carbon footprint."Tab Froud, BASA past President who negotiated with the Trustees: “While BASA and BEST are not in the pool design and construction business, Myrtha is in the pool building business and has built many more pools and aquatics centres than the NSC trustees and its consultant. They have pools in countries around the world and in 35 of the US states. With all due respect to the trustees and the work that has been done, it is our opinion that a decision to build the wrong design pool and system is being made at a high cost to the Bermudian public."Glenn Blakeney: “It will be the only 50 metre pool on the Island upon completion, is a community-centric facility that offers a range of aquatic opportunities, including swimming, diving, water polo and synchronised swimming. We envisage that the Aquatic Centre will be utilised by both elite athletes who are very serious about water-based sports, as well as recreational individuals who merely want to enjoy an afternoon in the pool.”Anthony Francis: “They have said that it is too deep for a community pool; does not have warm-up or warm-down facilities, meaning it cannot host top events like the Carifta Games because they require either a ten-lane pool or warm-up/warm-down areas; is not suitable for the needs of competitive swimmers because divers will also use the pool, meaning competitive swimmers won’t get the pool time they require for proper training; and, in terms of competitive swimming, is not a ‘fast pool’ because the deep end is too deep.”Sean Tucker: “The suggestion that the Board of Trustees would embark on a project of this magnitude without having carried out the necessary due diligence does not reflect the extreme care, attention to detail and extensive planning arrangements undertaken to make the Aquatics Centre a world class state of the art facility.”Michael Scott: “The NSC Aquatics Centre is able to accommodate everything from masters’ swimming to seniors’ therapeutic programmes, to junior programmes, to learn-to-swim programmes, to school programmes, to diving, to synchronised swimming to water polo. All of this, and more, can be accommodated there. The reaction so far has been simply fantastic.”Who’s telling the truth?Next month the National Swimming Championships will take place at the new NSC facility.Then the swimmers can decide who’s got it right and who hasn’t.After all, aren’t they the ones who matter most?