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Doral talking about building Olympic-size pool

Doral’s swimmers may have a home within a few years.

In its last meeting of the year Wednesday night, the City Council approved a feasibility study for an aquatic center, which could be built at J.C. Bermudez Park on Northwest 87th Avenue or on a swath of city-owned land near the corner of 33rd Street and 97th Avenue.

Council members dating back to 2008 have talked about building an Olympic-sized pool for the growing city, and several residents came out in support.

A star swimmer at Ronald Reagan High School who has qualified for Olympic trials, 18-year-old Isabella Paez said she has to go to the pool Tamiami Park for her 4 a.m. training sessions. Having a pool in Doral, she said, would make it easier on parents and student athletes.

“It will make everything so much easier,” she said. “It will make kids do what they love.”

Doral resident Jorge van Balen, 59, swam in the 1972 Olympics in Munich representing Venezuela. He went with his 14-year-old daughter Valeria, a Special Olympic gold medalist, to speak for a covered or indoor pool.

“An aquatic center in South Florida has to be indoor or covered beause we have storms in the summer,” he said.

Doralians used to be able to use the Miami Springs Municipal Pool before city leaders heard major safety concerns about the pool deck.

Barbara Hernandez, Doral’s parks and recreation director, said she’s already been in talks with local private school Shelton Academy to allow residents to use its short course pool in the meantime.

“I’ve already spoken with them, and they seem very open to it,” she said.

Hernandez told the council the aquatic center, depending on size and amenities, could cost between $1.25 million and $6.8 million, and operating costs could range from $240,000 to $1 million a year. Through entrance fees, memberships and third-party programs, city staff estimates that yearly revenue for the city could range from $75,000 to $450,000.

In order to get more solid figures, the council approved the feasibility study with hopes of developing a plan and breaking ground some time next year.

Vice Mayor Christi Fraga said it may take time as the city needs the study and a workshop to gauge what kind of facility the community wants, but she’s hopeful the project will move quickly.

“We can see this done in our term and breaking ground within a year,” she said.

Here are some other items from Wednesday night’s meeting:

• The city wants to look into producing a book that chronicles the history of Doral, from its unique name — a mashup of the names of the founders of the Doral Golf Resort and Spa — up through the the area’s incorporation 10 year ago to the present. Councilwoman Bettina Rodríguez-Aguilera proposed the discussion, which ended with the council directing staff to research authors and plan for town hall meetings where residents can have input.

• Regular council meetings may start earlier next year. The Council gave initial approval to splitting meetings into a morning session beginning at 9 a.m. and an evening session starting at 6 p.m. The morning session would feature a public comment period, non-controversial discussion items, the consent agenda and reports from the city manager, city attorney and the city clerk. The evening session would have more public comments, public hearings, and presentations and recognitions.

Follow @joeflech on Twitter.

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