Friday, July 16, 2021

Friday, July 16, Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel: Pool for the stars: New Hall of Fame complex on the way with dive tower to the sky

FORT LAUDERDALE — Just a block from the ocean, a swimmer’s paradise with sparkling pools and the tallest dive tower in the USA is taking shape to the tune of $47 million.

When the new Swimming Hall of Fame complex opens, all eyes will be on Fort Lauderdale, fans say.

Avid local swimmer Debbie Rosenbaum knows exactly when the pools closed: April 13, 2019. And she knows when they are set to reopen: sometime in September 2022.

“We can taste it, even though it’s that far away,” said Rosenbaum, a Fort Lauderdale paralegal whose 26-year-old son started swimming at the pool at age 5 and is now a national champ.

Rosenbaum started swimming laps at the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Center five years ago to help her get over a divorce and never stopped.

“Whatever is happening in your life, when you’re in the water and swimming, you just forget about whatever else is going on in the world,” she said. “It’s one of the best things you can do for yourself. When you get out of the water, you think, ‘I can fight the fight and keep going.’”

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Olympians have done laps there. Kids have learned to swim. And tourists have been coming since the complex opened in 1965.

All the fun stopped when the renovation got under way more than two years ago. But when the complex reopens, it’s going to be bigger and better than it was back in its glory days, city officials say.

A crane hoists the top piece of the new diving tower at the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Center on July 1, 2021.
A crane hoists the top piece of the new diving tower at the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Center on July 1, 2021. (Amy Beth Bennett / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

“All I hear from people is the real excitement about it,” Commissioner Steve Glassman said. “People are really psyched about the project. We were at one point the diving and swimming capital of the world. Bottomline, I think that expression ‘If you build it, they will come,’ that’s going to be exactly what’s happening here.”

The complex, at 501 Seabreeze Blvd., south of Las Olas, is getting new pools, a new dive tower, an open-air amenity deck, new locker rooms and a new grandstand and bleachers for spectators.

The dive tower alone costs $5 million.

City leaders say it’s worth every penny. The tower, with its flared platforms, resembles a ship’s hull and stands nearly nine stories high.

Divers will do their thing — reaching speeds up to 60 mph in three seconds — from a 27-meter diving platform, the tallest in the western hemisphere. But first they’ll have to climb 162 steps to the top.

The tower has nine platforms in all so divers of all levels can use it. When all is said and done there will be a new competition pool, new diving pool for the dive tower and a renovated training pool.

New museum on way

Big change is also in the works for the nearby International Swimming Hall of Fame, which shares space on the same 5-acre peninsula that juts into the Intracoastal Waterway.

The nonprofit hopes to bring a new museum to town, said Brent Rutemiller, CEO of the Hall of Fame museum and a former national swim team coach.

An illustration shows the planned International Swimming Hall of Fame, which shares space with the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Center on the same 5-acrepeninsula that juts into the Intracoastal Waterway.
An illustration shows the planned International Swimming Hall of Fame, which shares space with the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Center on the same 5-acrepeninsula that juts into the Intracoastal Waterway. (Arquitectonica/Arquitectonica)

“Without a doubt it’s going to be the No. 1 aquatic destination in the world,” he said. “We expect all the eyes of the international swim community will be focused on Fort Lauderdale. Our goal from Day 1 is to make this the top destination in the world for aquatic sports.”

The $90 million project calls for two new buildings that would open in 2025, if all goes as planned, said Mario Caprini, CEO of Capital Group P3 of Florida and a partner in the project with Hensel Phelps Construction — the same contractor handling the renovation of the aquatic center.

The Hall of Fame wants to knock down its two-story welcome center on the east side fronting Seabreeze Boulevard and its two-story museum to the west overlooking the Intracoastal.

‘Long time in the making’

The west building, built at a cost of $64 million, would have five floors but stand closer to 10 stories with a height of 105 feet, Rutemiller said. The $26 million east building would also have five floors but stand 94 feet high.

“It will be visually stunning,” Rutemiller said. “This has been a long time in the making.”

The museum, on the third floor of the west building, would include a restaurant on the top floor with a 360-degree view of Fort Lauderdale, the ocean and Intracoastal.

An illustration shows the planned International Swimming Hall of Fame, which shares space with the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Center on the same 5-acrepeninsula that juts into the Intracoastal Waterway.
An illustration shows the planned International Swimming Hall of Fame, which shares space with the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Center on the same 5-acrepeninsula that juts into the Intracoastal Waterway. (Arquitectonica/Arquitectonica)

There would be space for a ballroom, meeting space and tenants as well. A teaching pool hidden underneath the grandstands would sit next to an open plaza and gift shop.

Parking for 202 spaces would be on the second floor, with event space and offices on the fourth floor.

The building on the east would serve as a welcome center with a coffee shop on the ground floor. The second floor would have a viewing area of the competition pools to the west and the ocean to the east. The third floor would have a meeting room and offices. More offices would occupy the fourth floor. The top floor would serve as a rooftop terrace open to public.

The financial model hinges on space for tenants, Rutemiller said.

The plan was presented to the city in September 2020 by Hensel Phelps Construction.

Under the proposal, the developer would pay for construction, but the city would guarantee the loan for both buildings, Rutemiller said.

Over the course of the 30-year loan, the city would contribute an estimated $5 million, Caprini said.

“We intend on funding 100% of the project,” he said. “It will be a master lease with the city over 30 years. After 30 years the buildings would revert back to the city for $1. And they are free and clear.”

The pools at the Aquatic Center would stay open during construction, Rutemiller said.

Work continues on the new diving tower at the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Center on June 16, 2021. The tower will accommodate springboard diving at 1-meter and 3-meter heights, platform diving at 1-meter, 3-meter, 5-meter, 7.5-meter and 10-meter heights and high diving at 15-meter, 20-meter, 24-meter and 27-meter heights.
Work continues on the new diving tower at the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Center on June 16, 2021. The tower will accommodate springboard diving at 1-meter and 3-meter heights, platform diving at 1-meter, 3-meter, 5-meter, 7.5-meter and 10-meter heights and high diving at 15-meter, 20-meter, 24-meter and 27-meter heights. (Amy Beth Bennett / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Residents of the 15-story Venetian condo a block to the north are abuzz about the plan to build such a tall Hall of Fame museum, said John Burns, association president.

“The higher it goes, the more it blocks views people have had for a long time,” Burns said.

Larry Burnette, who lives on the 14th floor of the Venetian, hopes the height gets scaled back.

“I thought the design of the building was quite beautiful,” he said. “I just wonder if it’s not too big.”

Rutemiller says residents will get a chance to share their opinions in the coming months as the project moves forward.

Great expectations

Time was not kind to the Fort Lauderdale Aquatics Center.

By the mid-1980s, the complex began showing some age. By 2011, the grandstands were condemned after being deemed structurally unsound. Netting was installed to catch falling pieces of concrete.

That was the last year the Hall of Fame pool hosted a major national championship, said Laura Voet, manager of the aquatic center. Temporary portable bleachers were brought in to accommodate smaller crowds, but Fort Lauderdale lost its rep as the diving and swimming capital of the world.

Then in April 2019, the pools finally closed to make way for long-awaited renovations.

“People are anxiously awaiting the reopening,” Voet said. “We all are. Countless people from all over the world and the local community have learned to swim here. Anyone can swim here. It’s not just for elite athletes. Your grandmother can swim here. And an Olympic athlete can swim here. You can come here and you can be swimming next to a superstar.”

Every day people stop by to ask when the pools will reopen, Voet said.

“They used to swim here and they can’t wait for it to come back,” she said. “It will be worth the wait.”

Susannah Bryan can be reached at or on Twitter @Susannah_Bryan

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Happy Birthday Michelle Ford!!!

MICHELLE FORD (AUS) 1994 Honor Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD: 1980 Olympic Games: gold (800m Freestyle), bronze (200m Butterfly); Two World Records (800m Freestyle); 1978 Commonwealth Games: gold (200m Butterfly), silver 400m and 800m Freestyle), bronze (200m Freestyle and 4x100m Free Relay); 1982 Commonwealth Games: gold (200m Butterfly), silver (800m Freestyle); Four Australian National Championships (200m Butterfly).

Crazy about the water since age four, she was touted as the coming superstar of Australian swimming, and at age 13 she broke nine records, six state and three national, all in three days.  Two of those records were by Shane Gould and Jenny Turrall.  That same year she earned a spot on the 1976 Olympic team, the second youngest Australian ever to do so.  Just one year later, she set her first world record in the 800 freestyle.  Little did she know her times in the 800 free would someday beat the times swum earlier by the immortal Murray Rose and John Konrads.

This blonde haired, blue eyed beauty continued her winning streak at the 1978 Commonwealth Games, taking a gold in the 200 butterfly, two silvers in the 400 and 800 free and two bronzes in the 200 free and 400 freestyle relay.

But Michelle Ford's greatest memory is winning the gold medal in the 800 freestyle and bronze in the 200 butterfly in the Moscow 1980 Olympics.  "Competing in the Olympics helped define everything I am today," she said.  Ford was named Amateur Athlete of the Year in 1980.  Her name is cast in gold as the Australian women's team has not won a gold in the Olympics since 1980.

Ford's Olympic gold did not stop her.  She went out hard and fast in the 1982 Commonwealth Games (her second) to take the gold in the 200 fly and silver in the 800 free.  During the course of her career, she won four Australian National Championships.

Michelle Ford was a swimmer who made many coaches look great including Hall of Famer Don Talbot, Bill Sweetenham in Australia and Don Lamont at the University of Southern California.  Michelle was elected to the International Olympic Committee Athletes Commission 12 person board and was a member of the Olympic Academy from 1984 to 1988.  She retired from active competition in 1985 and two years later was invited to work with the Olympic Museum in Switzerland.  In 1988 she edited the FINA learn to swim manual.

Ford has used her master's degree in sports psychology to manage the growth and budgeting of 15 sports as the head of the University Association of Switzerland.  Impacting three countries (Australia, Switzerland and the USA) her fluid and elegant style in and out of the water are her trademark.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

August 13th - Happy Birthday Agnes Kovacs!

Agnes Kovacs (HUN) 2014 Honor Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD: 1996 OLYMPIC GAMES: bronze (200m breaststroke); 2000 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (200m breaststroke); 1998 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (200m breaststroke); 2001 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (200m breaststroke), bronze (100m breaststroke); 1995 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: silver (4x100m medley), bronze (100m breaststroke); 1997 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (100m breaststroke, 200m breaststroke); 1999 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (50m breaststroke, 100m breaststroke, 200m breaststroke); 2000 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (50m breaststroke, 100m breaststroke), silver (200m breaststroke); 2006 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: bronze (50m breaststroke, 100m breaststroke, 200m breaststroke); 1999 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS (25m): silver (50m breaststroke, 100m breaststroke, 200m breaststroke); 2002 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS (25m): bronze (100m breaststroke); two-time EUROPEAN SWIMMER OF THE YEAR: 1997 and 1998; HUNGARIAN SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR: 1997-2000.

Born in Budapest, Agnes Kovacs learned to swim when she was just two and a half years old, and loved the water from the very start. When she was just nine years old, her swimming teacher, Bea Szucs recommended she join the program at the Kőér St. Pool where she made rapid progress. At the age of 13 she had her first success in the Hungarian National Age Group Championships and as a fourteen year old, she won the European Junior Championship in the 100 yard breaststroke. Within days of her fifteenth birthday, she won the Olympic bronze medal in the 200 meter breaststroke in Atlanta, in 1996.

Following in the wake of Hall of Famer Krisztina Egerszegi, Agnes would be named Hungary’s best female swimmer and her country’s Sportswoman of the year for the next four years. Dominating the 200 meter breaststroke in all international competition from 1997 to 2000, she won gold at both the FINA World Championships in 1998, and then the Olympic gold medal, in Sydney, in 2000.

Following her Olympic success, Kovacs won her event again at the 2001 FINA Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, before moving to the United States to attend Arizona State University. When she left ASU in 2005 it was as a fifteen-time All-American, as the schools top senior female athlete, and with a degree in supply chain management.

Returning to Hungary, she rejoined the national team program and was a crowd favorite, winning three medals at the 2006 European Championships in the same pool where she first learned to swim twenty-two years earlier, on Budapest’s historic Margaret Island.

In addition to her Olympic and NCAA success, Agnes won a total of 25 medals at the European Championships, long and short course, and was a 53-time Hungarian National Champion from 1996 through 2007.

For Agnes, the support of her family was key to becoming a top level swimmer. She is currently married and lives with her husband and son in Hungary, where she is a PhD student at the Semmelweis University Faculty of Physical Education and Sports Sciences.

Russell McKinnon Named Chairman of International Swimming Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee

The International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) has named Mr. Russell McKinnon, of Western Australia, as the new Chairman of the ISHOF Selection Committee.  The position became available after the retirement of Mr. Camillo Cametti of Verona, Italy who stepped down after 25 years of service.

McKinnon has been a member of the ISHOF Selection Committee for over 22 years and is more than qualified to step into the position.

When asked to serve as Chairman, McKinnon said, “I have always enjoyed my liaison with ISHOF and had flights booked to attend last year’s induction — my first.  I wanted to see one of my nominees inducted — Jon Sieben.  I enjoy being immersed in the histories of people involved in the aquatic community and in my role as a Member of the FINA Media Committee.”

“Russell has been a member of the FINA Media Committee since 1999 and has attended and covered well over 100 major aquatic events including the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, Universiade, and European Championships.  He is a regular attendee at the FINA Convention, galas, FINA World Championships, water polo events, FINA Short Course Swimming World Championships, World Cups, Grand Prix Diving Super Final, as well as Artistic Swimming events. We believe this experience gives him great insight into the ISHOF selection processes.  We look forward to his leadership.” – Brent Rutemiller, ISHOF CEO

Mckinnon has already tipped his hand as to his desire to emphasize the “international” aspect of ISHOF when he expressed his belief that many top athletes are falling by the wayside and not enough non-USA people are getting recognized. He would like to improve that balance.  The other members of the selection committee represent all aquatic sports and has representation from multiple international destinations.

McKinnon is a Life Member Water Polo Western Australia Inc (AUS) and a Life Member Taranaki Water Polo Board (NZL).

Camillo Cametti Steps Down After 25 Years as Chairman of the ISHOF’s Selection Committee

The International Swimming Hall of Fame would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Camillo Cametti for his dedicated service as the Chairman of the ISHOF Honoree Selection Committee for the past 25 years.  He began serving as Chairman of ISHOF’s Selection Committee in 1996, the year of the Atlanta Olympic Games.

Camillo’s influence, knowledge and wisdom will be sorely missed by the International Swimming Hall of Fame family.  He served the aquatic community well.  Anybody who ever had the privilege of meeting or working with Camillo walked away with greater perspectives. Of all the people that I have met and work with over the years, I cannot think of a finer gentleman who radiated confidence and respect more than Camillo.   He remains the epitome of a true journalist dedicated to aquatic sports. Thank you for your service! – Brent Rutemiller, ISHOF CEO, Swimming World Magazine Publisher


Photo Courtesy: ISHOF

Cametti worked as an international journalist for almost 50 years.  As a former swimmer and water polo player from Verona, Italy, it was only natural that he was drawn to aquatics and became very successful at covering and promoting aquatic athletes.

He has been at every Olympic Games in a journalistic capacity since 1972 beginning in Munich, Germany and ending in Rio in 2016 for a total of thirteen Olympic Games.  In addition to the Olympic Games, Cametti has covered most and attended all the FINA World Championships since their inception in Belgrade, in 1973.

He has served a Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief for various swimming magazines such as FINA’s The World of Swimming, the Italian Swimming Federations’s FIN NewsIl Mondo del Nuoto, and La Technica de Nuoto.

He has been a contributor to Italy’s main sports daily La Gazzetta Dello Sport, Italy’s main television “RAI”, Italy’s main sports magazine, Guerin Sportivo,  FINA MagazineFINA Aquatics World and more.  He has been a lecturer at both national and international clinics and seminars on sports journalism related to aquatics.

In addition to his journalist prowess, Cametti has served as a Board Member for the ITALIAN SWIMMING Federation (FIN), as a member of the IOC ORIS Working Group for Aquatic Sports and Chairman of the AIPS Swimming Commission (1990-2002).  He was a member of the FINA Technical Swimming Committee from 1998 to 1996, and was the first to propose the recognition of the short course competitions and world records as well as the introduction, recognition and acceptance of prize money in selected competitions.

Camillo Cametti is fluent in four languages.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Happy BIrthday Pam Morris!

PAMELA MORRIS (USA) 1965 Honor Synchronized Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD:  U.S. SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING NATIONALS: 1965 Indoor Titles (solo, duet, team); 1965 Outdoor Titles (solo, duet, team).

In the young sport of synchronized swimming so popular in the United States and Canada, the quality and quantity of competition has improved dramatically since the sport began its national competition in 1946, adding solo in 1950.  Ruth and Gloria Geduldig of the Chicago Town Club were the first indoor and outdoor duet champions.

June Taylor and Beulah Gundling respectively won the first four indoor and outdoor solo titles, but in the entire 16 years of three way competition, only one girl, Pame Morris of the San Francisco Merionettes has been a triple winner.  Pame accomplished this difficult combination of individual and team performance twice, winning solo, duet and team titles (the synchronized swimming hat trick) in both the 1965 indoor and outdoor championships at Houston, Texas and Maumee, Ohio.  Pame's duets teamed with Patty Willard.  These two great performers were joined in the winning San Francisco Merionettes team competition by Margo McGrath, Rhea Irvine, Patsy Mical, Carol Redmond, Kathie McBride and Sharon Lawson.

In recognizing the recently retired Pame Morris as an honoree, the Swimming Hall of Fame acknowledges synchronized swimming as a mature sport in the swimming framework of aquatic sports.

**Please note: this bio was written the year the honoree was inducted, 1965.

‘Mystery, Alaska!’ Lydia Jacoby Becomes First Swimmer From State to Make U.S. Olympic Team

Many of the members of the United States Olympic swim team have been recognizable names for the last few years. Names like Ryan MurphyLilly King and Chase Kalisz will be off to Tokyo for their second Olympics. Katie Ledecky is on her third Olympic team, while many other big names will make their debuts.

Most of those swimmers come from heavily concentrated swimming areas. Ledecky hails from the top club out of D.C. – Nation’s Capital Swim Club, which has already put three on the team, including Ledecky, Andrew Wilson and Andrew Seliskar. Murphy hails from the Bolles School in Jacksonville, which is one of the top swimming private schools historically. Kalisz swam for the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, which produced Olympic medalists Michael Phelps, Katie Hoff and Beth BotsfordLilly King comes from a small club in the Newburgh Sea Creatures, but hails from Indiana, a state with the IU Natatorium in Indianapolis, which has served host to four Olympic Trials.

Last month in Omaha, Nebraska, 17-year-old Lydia Jacoby made history by becoming the first swimmer from Alaska to make the U.S. Olympic team. Jacoby swims for the Seward Tsunami Swim Club, based about two and a half hours south of the state’s biggest city Anchorage, which houses one of the few 50-meter pools in the state. Her club has about 50 members, consisting “mostly of little kids,” and she was the first swimmer from her state to even win a junior national title, which she did in 2019.

In her preparation for the Olympic Trials, Jacoby, who is committed to the University of Texas, moved to a rented family house in Anchorage so she could train long course while her pool in Seward was not opened during the pandemic. Many of the conversations around Jacoby’s name in Omaha have centered around her home state, and she carries that banner as Alaska’s best swimmer with pride.

“It means so much,” Lydia Jacoby said after her race. “I am so honored to be able to represent my state at a meet like this. I’m so excited to now be able to represent my country as well.”

Alaska, a state with no in-state Division I program, has never been known as a powerhouse for swimming, but had two swimmers competing in Omaha – Jacoby and Arizona State’s John Heaphy, who was 27th in the 100 breaststroke. With a limited number of 50-meter pools in the state, the odds are stacked against them. But that was a theme at the Olympic Trials with a few of the Tokyo qualifiers.

Rhyan White, the second place finisher in the 100 back and winner of the 200 back, hails from Utah, a state that has produced a few successful Division I swimmers, but has never been known to churn out Olympians. Patrick Callan, the sixth place finisher in the 200 freestyle, hails from Oklahoma, another state with no Division I program. Callan follows in David Plummer’s footsteps as an Olympian from Oklahoma.

Many of swimming’s biggest names don’t always come from powerhouse states either. Three-time Olympian Ian Crocker hailed from Maine, four-time Olympian Jenny Thompson came from New Hampshire and three-time Olympian Elizabeth Beisel came from Rhode Island. Making an Olympic team out of a smaller state is not a new feat, but it is always a relative surprise when it happens.

Jacoby’s feat of finishing runnerup in the 100 breast, which puts her second in the world rankings for 2021, proves that despite any perceived “limitations,” fast swimming can happen no matter where you come from. And now, she will chase a medal on the biggest stage in the sport.