A Deep-Rooted Tradition

Photos Courtesy Of Mike Mezeul

Photos Courtesy Of Mike Mezeul

In 1988, there wasn’t much in the way of parks or recreation opportunities in Allen, Texas. Back then the city had no recreation centers and fewer than 600 acres of parks to serve a population of nearly 20,000. Just 25 years later, Allen’s 85,000-plus residents enjoy more than 1,200 acres of parks, more than 40 miles of hiking and nature trails, five recreation facilities, including a state-of-the-art natatorium, a new municipal golf course, and even more. But in 1988, the list might as well have included only Ford Pool—then a new swimming facility built just 2 years earlier. 

While swimming has always been a welcomed pastime—particularly in the Texas summer heat—facilities in the U.S. like Ford Pool were really just starting to become popular for swimming competitions. In fact, many experts point to the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, as a turning point for the popularization of the sport, as American swimmers Matt Biondi and Janet Evans brought home 10 medals, including eight golds between them.    

Enthusiasm Abounds For Aquatics

Even in Allen—which still wasn’t much more than a one stop-light town—competitive swimming was catching on. That year a group of volunteers organized the City of Allen Swim Team (COAST), putting the time and effort into coordinating practice and swim meets at Ford Pool. The organization consisted of just a couple dozen swimmers—if that—and a group of dedicated parents. 

Fast forward to 2013, and COAST is still going strong, celebrating its 25th anniversary. While much has changed since 1988—home swim meets are held at Don Rodenbaugh Natatorium (DRN), and the program is now managed by the Allen Parks and Recreation Department’s Natatorium staff—some things remain the same. Among them, COAST still calls Ford Pool home for practices. Participants are still able to decide how competitive they want to be—competing in swim meets or just swimming during the week for fun. Also, the program remains extremely affordable. 

A Bargain With Competitive Flexibility

The number of participants has nearly doubled since DRN Center Supervisor Miklos Valdez took over the program in 2007. For the past 2 years, the program has reached a maximum capacity with 210 swimmers divided among two age groups—13 and older and 12 and under. 

However, value and competitive flexibility are only part of the reasons COAST has stood the test of time, and become so incredibly popular. Its success really belongs to all of the swimmers, parents, and volunteers who have been involved over the past quarter of a century.

“One of the unique aspects of COAST is that it’s a program where we really get to know the families,” Valdez explains. “And each season we just add to the COAST family.”  

Spend just 5 minutes talking to Valdez about COAST, and it’s apparent he takes great pride in the program—you might say it’s “his baby.” And just as babies eventually do, growing up is something that happens in and around the program. There’s a natural learning

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