The Sedalia Bandits swim team is looking for a new home.

Bandits head coach Jerry Tankersley approached the Sedalia Park Board Wednesday at its monthly meeting, which was held one day early due to the 2022 Missouri State Fair starting Thursday.

Tankersley asked to be added to the board agenda a couple days before the meeting, which was held at the Heckart Community Center, 1800 West 3rd.

Coach Tankersley was accompanied by several concerned Bandits parents.

The reason for the appearance before the Park Board was that the Sedalia Middle School pool, which was the winter home of the Bandits, was shut down last week now that the Heckart is in full operation.

“I was blind-sided,” Tankersley told the Park Board after receiving the notification from Sedalia 200 via email last week about the SMS pool closure.

Tankersley who been involved with the Bandits swim team for 22 years and is a former member as a youth, said “I don't want a handout.” But he added, “I'm very passionate about it.”

He later said that even if it happens that he no longer serves as head coach, he still wants to be involved in the Bandits program.

But the swim coach, who took over the program 13 years ago, said that his biggest problem was fees and the cost of running the program, which attracted between 60 and 70 members this past season. The maximum roster number was between 110 to 125, he said. The Bandits program took a hit when COVID-19 arrived in 2020, Tankersley noted.

“This is the first year we're in the red,” Tankersley admitted.

The annual fee for each Bandit is close to $70, he said.

The cost to run the program is around $3,000, which is about $1,000 over budget. Tankersley stressed the importance of the Bandits as a feeder program for Sedalia School District 200's competitive high school swim team.

“All but three Smith-Cotton record holders over the years have been former Bandits,” Tankersley told the Board.

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A Bandits swim meet was smoothly and successfully held recently at the Heckart, and Tankersley heard numerous compliments about the new facility. He added that swim meets would be held at the Heckart, but championships would need to be held outdoors at Centennial Pool, because of the large number of teams, up to 18, expected to compete.

At issue is the annual fee that would be charged to the Bandits program to run it at the Heckart, now that the SMS pool is no longer an option.

But the Sedalia Park Board has policies in place that it must adhere to, when it comes to outside organizations wishing to use Sedalia Parks & Rec facilities.

Board President Jerry Case said that if the Park Board makes an exception for the Bandits program, the board will have other groups asking if they can get special treatment.

The half-hour discussion ended when the Park Board agreed to table a decision until the Sept. meeting takes place on the second Thursday of the month.

“For now, they need a place to swim. And they'll swim here, and we were working everything out, but when I told him this is the payment, which is $7.50 a lane, that's when he (Tankersley) was like 'Woah, woah, woah' and I said 'I can't make that decision for you, it's a policy. But you're more than welcome to come talk to the Park Board and see what they'll do.' But three years ago, we started charging outside organizations (to use the facilities). Paul Klover plays a little over $9,000 a year, which we're giving it to them at a discount at 25 percent. Parks & Rec is still eating that other 75 percent. So for us to continue to expand and do good things in the park, we gotta make sure, just like a business, you gotta cover your expenses. Right now, we're not even breaking even, we're losing money. And it's great for the kids, we want to be able to offer that, but we need to get where we're breaking even and covering expenses,” commented Sedalia Parks & Rec Director Amy Epple to KSIS after the meeting.

Randy Kirby
Randy Kirby
Randy Kirby
Randy Kirby

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