Fort Lauderdale

International Swimming Hall of Fame looking for a new home

 

After 50 years by the beach, the International Swimming Hall of Fame plans to close its headquarters and museum when its lease expires in 2015.

 
After 50 years by the beach, the International Swimming Hall of Fame plans to close its headquarters and museum when its lease with the city expires in February 2015.
After 50 years by the beach, the International Swimming Hall of Fame plans to close its headquarters and museum when its lease with the city expires in February 2015.
Chuck Fadely / Herald Staff

lrobertson@MiamiHerald.com

Johnny Weismuller’s swimsuits will be packed up and moved out of Fort Lauderdale. Mark Spitz’s starting blocks, Jenny Thompson’s medals and Greg Louganis’ memorabilia are also seeking a new home.

After 50 years by the beach, the International Swimming Hall of Fame plans to close its headquarters and museum when its lease with the city expires in February 2015. The collection of aquatic artifacts will be relocated, but the future address is undetermined, the facility’s chief announced Monday.

ISHOF’s board of directors was dissatisfied with Fort Lauderdale’s renovation plan for the aging Aquatic Complex on Seabreeze Boulevard and decided by an 11-0 vote to move to a city where a modernized attraction can be constructed, CEO Bruce Wigo said.

“This was a very emotional and difficult decision for our organization,” Wigo said. “However, we have come to realize that the problems we have had with the city since at least 2000 — and which we have been unable to resolve since — stem from the fact that our organization’s vision and the city’s vision for their new Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex are not in alignment.”

Wigo wasn’t confident that the city’s design would generate more foot traffic for ISHOF or provide the type of building necessary for a new museum featuring interactive exhibits.

The complex will undergo a $32 million upgrade to its two 50-meter pools and diving well. One of the pools and the diving well will sit atop a four-story, 500-space garage.

“We needed a more creative concept that would draw more people and appeal to visitors and families,” said Wigo, who had advocated a splash pool or water-park component. “The city is sticking with the outdated 1965 concept of pools where you come do your laps and leave. There are 18 Olympic-sized pools in Broward County. Ours is usually deserted.”

The complex, which loses about $1.2 million per year, used to be a popular winter training spot for college teams and the site of major meets. Fort Lauderdale’s teams produced Olympic swimmers and divers. The diving pool still hosts the annual international FINA Grand Prix competition, but the YMCA stopped holding its national age-group swimming meet there when the grandstand deteriorated. Attendance at the museum dwindled from 100,000 in its heyday to 25,000, and its budget has been cut to $600,000.

“This place has a rich tradition, but we’ve had to detach from the nostalgia and accept that the swimming business model has changed,” said Wigo, who took over ISHOF in 2005 when Spitz and Donna de Varona threatened to remove their memorabilia from the dilapidated museum.

Fort Lauderdale City Manager Lee Feldman said the city could not provide the $50,000 annual subsidy Wigo sought in addition to the $1 annual lease for a 10,000-square-foot building. ISHOF also wanted control over events held there.

“The bottom line is we would gladly provide space and forego millions of dollars in potential rent, but we’re not in a position to provide that subsidy,” Feldman said.

Construction will begin next summer and last for 16-18 months, Feldman said.

“We thought we could work it out, but my only regret is that we delayed the project for several months to wait on a conclusion from ISHOF, whose board originally endorsed our design,” Feldman said.

Wigo said he is in discussions with a few other cities, including Santa Clara, Calif. “I don’t know where we will end up,” he said. “We would like to stay in South Florida, but I’m doubtful we can find any property locally.”

Read more Outdoors stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
A cheetah and her offspring at White Oak near Yulee.

    WILDLIFE | White Oak Conservation center

    Exotic, endangered animals thrive at Wild Oak preserve

    The North Florida facility that rehabilitated a young, injured Florida panther has a long tradition of helping threatened and endangered species.

  • outdoors

    South Florida fishing report: April 16, 2014

    Kim Mills of the Kelley Fleet reported all of their day boats have had catches of sailfish, dolphins, blackfin tuna, bonitos and cobia. All of the catches were made outside the outer reef. Captain Wayne Conn from the party boat Reward out of Miami Beach Marina reported on a recent night bottom fishing trip his 40 customers landed close to 400 yellowtail, mangrove and mutton snappers.

  • Swim Miami offers multiple courses

    Whether you are an advanced swimmer or an amateur looking to improve your time, the 2014 Swim Miami presented by Nike will have something for you.

Get your Miami Heat Fan Gear!

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category