Dave Pattison

I have great respect for the Scottsdale Progress and its role in this community. However, its recent article about an ongoing lawsuit against the City of Scottsdale, most recently joined by the Goldwater Institute, is incorrect and quite frankly unfair to one particular nonprofit organization. (Goldwater Institute sues city over swim club, April 11, 2021) 

As a local resident, former Swim Neptune family, and current proud parent of Scottsdale Aquatic Club (SAC) swimmers (for 13 years and counting!) thank you for allowing me to set the record straight. 

Scottsdale’s public pools, parks and other recreational amenities are – and should be – for the community, but particularly for the taxpayers who pay for them. Yet, the Phoenix-based, for-profit, private Swim Neptune organization is trying to upset this harmonious relationship. Swim Neptune leadership is furious that city officials will not let their private swim club “buy out” Scottsdale pools to the detriment and displacement of local taxpaying citizens. 

 Scottsdale Aquatic Club (or SAC) is a highly-regarded non-profit that has served Scottsdale’s youth while renting City facilities for nearly 60 years. This strong partnership, which has developed over decades with the City, has enabled the club to grow into a nationally ranked 500-swimmer organization which trains children ages 5 to18 from beginner to Olympian. Every Scottsdale resident should be proud to have SAC represent our wonderful city on a local, national, and even international stage. While more than two-thirds of our families are residents of Scottsdale and/or enrolled in the Scottsdale Unified School District, a cursory review of the for-profit Swim Neptune website shows nine locations scattered throughout Arizona. How does a private, for-profit, statewide organization serve Scottsdale residents with quality, service, distinction, and attention? It cannot. Scottsdale would merely be the latest outpost, and profit-center, in Swim Neptune’s far-flung state empire. 

 For years the City of Scottsdale has followed a wise policy of making its taxpayer funded pools available at a fair, appropriate, and affordable rate to local nonprofit youth organizations such as SAC. This enables organizations without significant financial resources access to world-class facilities at a reasonable price. The City of Scottsdale charges SAC and other nonprofit youth aquatic programs rates comparable to what other cities in Arizona levy. 

 The article falsely promotes Swim Neptune’s allegations of the City “gifting” SAC favorable rates yet ignores Swim Neptune’s own profit driven motivations. If the City followed Swim Neptune’s approach, Scottsdale would be turned into a cash cow and funds would flow from our city to Swim Neptune programs in other parts of the state to the detriment of our children. 

 Moreover, as in a marriage, the City of Scottsdale should seek a partner who they can work with in a long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship. It is clear Swim Neptune has burned bridges in Scottsdale because over the years it has had pool access at private organizations such as the Jewish Community Center, Thunderbird Academy, and Village Health Club only to subsequently lose those privileges. After these resources have run dry, Swim Neptune has now turned its sights on the last remaining option – the public resources operated by the City of Scottsdale. 

 Notably, to accommodate Swim Neptune demands, they were offered pool time at El Dorado Park in south Scottsdale by the City, a place SAC serves today. But Neptune rejected this out of hand because all it really wants to do is cherry pick within Scottsdale. That’s just wrong. When bullying tactics did not work, Swim Neptune resorted to litigation against the City and at the expense of taxpayers. One should ask oneself, “What kind of a partner would they be if they got their way?” The City of Scottsdale should not be exploited, manipulated, or cowed into surrendering to Swim Neptune demands just because they have been unsuccessful maintaining a positive relationship elsewhere. 

 Specifically, Swim Neptune sued the City of Scottsdale a couple of years ago, forcing the city to spend taxpayer dollars to rightfully defend itself. Swim Neptune lost. And they lost badly. Now, this for-profit company, has somehow convinced the Goldwater Institute to assist in its effort to run roughshod over the city taxpayers by initiating an appeal of the adverse decision against it. I have a hard time believing the Goldwater Institute did sufficient due diligence – some of which is outlined in this editorial – before signing on to this corporate crusade. Here’s a novel idea for the private sector plaintiffs. Go build your own pool for your own for-profit business. Use your own money for your own purposes. 

 If Swim Neptune prevails, where would it end? Compelling a commercial use of city-owned facilities would set a bad precedent. Seeking top-dollar and generating the absolute most cash for every public asset is short-sighted and unwise. Instead, building the best Scottsdale possible should be everyone’s goal. That is how you promote a strong, thriving, and friendly community with lasting relationships for all. 

 Finally, I want to say thank you to current and past City of Scottsdale leadership for its conscientious stewardship of public resources. My children have benefited. This community has benefited. Stay the course. Don’t be intimidated. Scottsdale and her citizens will be the better for it. 

The author is a Scottsdale resident whose children swim and compete at the city’s public pools via Scottsdale Aquatic Club.