Aquatics Center targets early June opening

ABRAHAM GALVAN
The Destin Log
Trevor Stevenson (from left), Beth Balent and Page Dolloff were busy washing cars and helping to raise money on Saturday at the Destin Aquatics Center. [ABRAHAM GALVAN/THE LOG]

Local swimmers, students and residents soon will be able to train, participate in swimming programs or just enjoy a leisurely time at the two pools at the Destin Aquatics Center, formerly the old YMCA pools.

On Saturday, during the Party near the Pool event, Coast Aquatics senior swimmers held a car wash in the center’s parking lot for donations. A rummage sale, donation station, snow cones and small group tours were available for anyone that stopped by. Visitors were also able to dunk their coaches and Destin City Council members in the dunk tank, with all proceeds going toward the opening of the center.

“We are at the home stretch now and need about $22,000 to help refinish and resurface the recreational pool, which includes adding filters and pumps,” said Kathi Heapy, one of the founders of Emerald Coast Fitness Foundation, which has leased the property from the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation. “Both pools need to be fixed and be operational in order to get state certified.”

Heapy said they hope to be open by June 5, and let the Destin Elementary Dolphin summer swim team have their first practice at the pools.

“Then we will have master practices for adults and Coast Aquatics will be able to start their practices here,” she said. “We want to get people excited, know we are here and it’s happening,”

After seeing the aquatic swimmers holding up signs on Commons Drive and inviting drivers to come in and get a car wash, Debbie Cramer was excited to see the progress of the pool center.

“It’s very important kids here learn how to swim because we are surrounded by the Gulf. Being in the water is a main activity in this area,” Cramer said, who grew up swimming in pools. “Swimming is in my heart. Now families will have a place to swim because it’s very difficult trying to learn to swim in the Gulf.”

Washing every car that came in, 14-year-old Beth Balent said she is looking forward for the re-opining of the center because it’s closer to where she lives. To train, Balent currently has to travel to Woodland Pools in Niceville or to Bernie R. Lefebvre Aquatic Center in For Walton Beach.

“Now we will have less crowded pools and swimming lanes,” she said.

Balant said the pools will be open for the public and not just swimming teams.

“Hopefully it will encourage kids to swim and maybe join Coast Aquatics. … We always need new members,” she said.