Five months after it finally opened to the public, officials at the Aquatic Center in Destin, formerly the Destin YMCA pool, say things are going swimmingly.
Pam Braseth, secretary for the Emerald Coast Fitness Foundation, said Monday the pool was seeing great success with classes and swim teams and hoped to expand in 2018 to host swimming tournaments.
“When we opened in the fall, when the weather permitted, we had family swim lessons and Aquasize, and that will begin again mid-March,” Braseth said. “By April, when the weather is nicer, we’ll be able to gear that back up again. We had a very active group.”
Braseth said the pool also saw its first college winter training trip over the holidays. The swim team from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas came to Destin to train for two weeks, and while their trip fell “smack dab in the middle” of the recent cold snap, Braseth was able to make accommodations for them.
“We were able to put them up at the Bernie,” Braseth said, referring to the Bernie R. Lefebvre Aquatic Center in Fort Walton Beach, which has an indoor training pool and is also run by the Emerald Coast Fitness Foundation.
She said the teams rented two homes in Destin and spent money in the local economy throughout the duration of their stay.
Multiple swim teams are now or about to begin training at the Aquatic Center in Destin, including the Destin Middle School swim team and a summer swim team in June. The summer swim team will compete against four other area swim teams, including the ECFF’s “Bernie” team, a Bluewater Bay team, a team from Hurlburt Field and a team from Eglin Air Force Base.
Braseth said she was also excited to host the upcoming Senior Games swim meet on Feb. 17 for local snowbirds, part of the Destin Snowbird Club’s annual Snowbird games tournament.
“It’s for people 50 and older, it’s 15 dollars to enter and it will be held at the Destin pool,” Braseth said. “If weather doesn’t permit, we’ll move it to the Bernie, but if Destin holds this year we’re going to have a senior swim meet.”
The pool sat dormant for nearly three years after the YMCA shut it down in 2014 due to poor management. The Emerald Coast Fitness Foundation took over the lease for the pool at the start of 2017, raised funds and galvanized an army of local volunteers to fix the pools and restore the facility to its former glory. It officially opened to the public as the Aquatic Center of Destin in August of last year.
Braseth said there have been some challenges associated with reopening a 10-year-old pool, including a brief snafu earlier in the week when some of the equipment in the pool failed and the water temperature dropped, preventing the Coast Aquatics swim team from practicing Monday night. But Braseth said the pool would be back to full operation by Wednesday morning.
"It was just a small repair," she said.
Braseth said she still has more fundraising to go, and the most pressing need right now is the need for a heating and air conditioning system in the locker rooms and administration building. But while continuing to raise money, Braseth said, teams and visitors to the pool will “just keep swimming.”
“I feel good about it,” she said. “It’s a work in progress, but we’re very excited about what we have been able to accomplish so far, and with what we have coming this next year.”