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. . . AND FORGET CLOSING THE POOL IT'S BECOME A PAYING ATTRACTION FOR BUFFALO'S ECONOMY

DOWNTOWN Buffalo has a new feature attractive to certain people from all corners of the country. It has started to draw a solid and dependable number of visitors. So what happens? Chatter begins about closing it down.

We don't need that.

The feature is the Olympic-sized swimming pool at Erie Community College's Flickinger Athletic Center. It got rave reviews during the World University Games. Now, it's drawing many national and regional swimming meets because it is a known world-class facility. Swimmers who come here stay in our hotels, eat at our restaurants and, one hopes, go home with good thoughts about Buffalo.

But now ECC President Louis M. Ricci has included a closing of the pool as one of a number of potential cost-cutting measures to deal with a $5.3 million budget gap.

It came up at a college budget committee meeting, where the savings were pegged at $200,000 -- far short of what would be lost to this community by any calculation.

Ricci says it was just a "conversation," not a proposal. But it's a bad idea even to mention for a minute.

Local convention officials and swimming enthusiasts have done an admirable job of bringing a variety of meets to the ECC pool. Eight were signed up in January alone. The eight are billed as bringing 11,800 people here with an economic impact of more than $8 million. One of the events will be the 1997 national senior championships.

Loose talk about closing the pool makes meet organizers jumpy about their selection of Buffalo. They have picked a city and now catch word that the place is talking about closing its pool. Imagine how that feels.

The loose talk serves to undermine efforts to market the pool for more events. The pool has to be a certainty if it is to be a community benefit.

Ricci has a point, though. Given ECC's budget problems, it's not unreasonable for the college to seek a way to share in the pool's prosperity. Maybe something can be worked out so that ECC, too, can profit.

But, in the meantime, let's forget any talk about closing the pool. What a self-defeating idea for Erie County.

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