In addition to providing more practice space and a venue for competition, the coaches hope the aquatic center gets more children interested in competitive swimming at a young age.
Until the center’s construction off Sixes Road in Holly Springs, budding swimmers had to either travel to another county to practice or rely on community pools. Many swim programs were developed by neighborhood associations, but for children who don’t live in such a community, swimming was out of reach.
The county’s high schools felt the sting, too. The annual county championship meet has long been held outside the county lines, at suitable facilities like the Central Aquatic Center in Marietta, or the Cumming Aquatic Center in Forsyth County.
Etowah coach Virginia Richards said some of her swimmers have gotten jobs as life guards at the aquatic center, adding to its value.
“It’s working out really well,” Richards said. “It’s been a good thing for the community. It’s created local jobs for the teens and given the teams a chance to be there to practice and compete.”
Richards has been teaching summer school during the past few weeks and hasn’t had a chance to see the aquatic center for herself, but she’s looking forward to checking it out.
“I’m excited to go see it,” she said.
The aquatic center boasts an Olympic-size 50-meter competition pool, as well as a 25-yard recreation pool. There are also indoor classrooms.
The CCAC Pelicans are also using the facilities to practice this summer. The team hosted its first meet Thursday, with another planned for June 13. The team is divided into four age groups — 8-and-under, 9-10, 11-14 and 15-18 — and practices three times a week, with meets Thursdays.
The one thing the aquatic center lacks for high school competitions is a diving well. While the county does not boast many divers, some coaches feel that’s because there has never been a place for the athletes to practice locally. Divers instead have to travel to facilities in neighboring counties.
“A diving well could have really added something to the county,” Woodstock coach J.T. Gillin said. “I don’t have any divers on my team, but part of the reason why could be that they don’t have anywhere to practice locally.”