Swimmers, coaches and parents from Sigma Swimming in Tarrant County flooded the Tarrant County College Board meeting Thursday night, hoping to get help with a contract dispute.
"Would TCC raise tuition on students by 233 percent?" Swim coach Andrew Ha asked the board about Sigma's proposed new $557,200 per year lease for the pool at TCC's northwest campus.
"There is no pool in the country charging these rates," Ha said. "The Olympic Training Center does not charge these rates."
The board said because the contract was with its northwest campus, that is where the contract will need to be resolved.
For the last 10 years, Sigma Swimming has been doing laps at Tarrant County College's Northwest campus. This season, the not-for-profit program is treading water to stay afloat.
"This is the one they tried to charge us half-a-million dollars," said Tara Blair, as she pointed to a proposed contract to rent the pool. "I think we could have bought the facility. I mean, that's a house! That's a lot of money."
The new contract amounted to a more than 200-percent increase in rent over last year. The start of swimming was delayed until September, when Sigma agreed to a temporary three-month contract for $46,900.
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"So we're paying more for three months than we were paying for the entire year," Blair said. She says the increased rent has caused her tuition payments for two children in the swim program to go up hundreds of dollars, and she's contributing to a scholarship fund for parents who cannot afford the increase.
"If we didn't have this place to swim at I'd be losing a big part of my life," said Hunter Boniface, who is training for Olympic trials. "I'd be just devastated."
Sigma's head coach, Andrew Ha, said he was taking a pay cut.
"For me, taking a pay cut for the kids was worth it," Ha said.
A spokesman for Tarrant County College Northwest Campus told NBC 5 on Wednesday night he expected to more details Thursday about the reason for the rent increase, but that TCC wants to address Sigma Swimming's concerns. TCC did not respond to an NBC 5 request on Thursday for for more information about the rent increase.
Parents and swimmers started a Change.org petition trying to pressure TCC.