By Phillip Whitten
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., May 27. FOR the past year, Dr. Sam Freas, President of the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF), has been attempting to move the primary residence of the Hall several hours north along Florida's eastern coastline, from Fort Lauderdale to Daytona Beach.
The planned move has generated considerable controversy in both cities, as supporters and opponents of the move have pressed their respective cases, oftentimes with great passion and conviction.
The Hall of Fame actually is the centerpiece of Dr. Freas' plan to relocate ISHOF as well as the national headquarters of six Olympic sports to Daytona Beach.
According to a study by the Central Florida Sports Commission, the move would have a major positive economic impact on the area, estimated at $107.9 million between 2005 and 2015:
ISHOF Impact on Daytona Beach:
2005 through 2015
Sport——————- Athletes—Economic Impact—-Room nights
Swimming Hall of Fame—–53,150—–$56,257,785——–124,380
At a hearing at the Daytona City Commission last night, supporters of the move far out numbered opponents, and they cheered Dr. Freas' plans to bring swimming and the six other Olympic sports to the city, pointing out that the move would also bring prestige to the home of NASCAR. However, it appears that members of the City Commission, who will vote on the proposal, remain divided.
According to a report by John Bozzo in the Daytona Beach Times, a handful of the more than 120 people at the meeting in Peabody Auditorium and some commissioners remained critical of plans to bring the International Swimming Hall of Fame and six Olympic sports to Daytona. But comments ran 17 to 6 in favor of the move. The following quotes appeared in his story:
"Stop accepting reasons why we shouldn't do this, and look at ways to get this done," said Rob Butcher, marketing director for International Speedway Corp.
"I'm in favor of it because it's world-class," beachside resident Jeff Terzini said in an interview with Bozzo. "It's better than more T-shirt shops and bars."
On the negative side, Paul Zimmerman complained the sports project is linked to a controversial plan to build beach side condominiums. About half of taxes from the condos would help pay for the sports facilities.
Bill McMunn, president of Consolidated-Tomoka Land Co., urged commissioners to support the sports proposal on its own, separate from any development plan, and look for ways to make it happen.
"Do we want sports?" he asked rhetorically.
McMunn said his company supports the sports plan and agreed to donate a piece of property valued at $1 million across from the city's Municipal Stadium for construction of sports facilities.
Commissioner Rick Shiver said he would like to make Daytona Beach a site for Olympic teams to train, but urged caution about plans to build a $20 million sports-aquatic center.
"The downside is a $20 million facility that we have no guarantees it will work," he said.
Dr. Freas, president of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, said he would raise money, hold public forums and help improve existing city facilities such as the Police Athletic League pool. He also promised to bring in developers to invest in the city and asked commissioners to consider putting some of the new taxes from those projects into sports facilities.
Opponents cheered when Commissioner Shiela McKay said she opposed the project because it is risky.
Commissioner Charles Cherry outlined a vision for the future and recalled Bill France Sr., founder of NASCAR, and Mary McLeod-Bethune, founder of Bethune-Cookman College, noting: "Everything we do is a risk. This perhaps is a risk. Let's go. We can't say no to this."
Mayor Yvonne Scarlett-Golden said she would hold similar forums in other parts of the city.
"My heart is in this project," she said.