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June 23, 2014

Breaking ground

$9.8M Vigo Schools Aquatic Center kicks off at Voorhees Park

TERRE HAUTE — Jeff Thompson tells his swim teams each year that it takes teamwork to make dreamwork.

“Today, a dream comes true because of incredible teamwork,” he said Monday during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Vigo Schools Aquatic Center that will be constructed in Voorhees Park.

“It’s truly remarkable to think about how many people have been involved with this process and how everyone has embraced a single vision for the betterment of our community,” he said.

The longtime Terre Haute South and Terre Haute Torpedoes swimming coach has lobbied for an aquatic facility for many years. While he’ll soon be leaving Terre Haute for a new opportunity, he will remain heavily invested in the center, he said after the program.

He has three nieces who swim and will benefit from the new facility, as well as those he coached at South and through the Torpedoes.

He’ll be back for the opening in August 2015. “I can comfortably walk away knowing this is in great hands,” Thompson said. He has accepted a new job as head coach for boys and girls at Germantown Academy in suburban Philadelphia.

Thompson also will coach the Germantown aquatic club.

The Vigo County School Corp. conducted a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new $9.8 million Aquatic Center, which will be funded through a bond issue.

Pool features will include a 50-meter by 25-yard Olympic-sized pool, a therapy pool and spectator seating for more than 350 people. The new 30,000 square-foot facility will replace aging pools at Terre Haute South Vigo, North Vigo and West Vigo high schools.

The aquatic center is something people will one day “look back upon and say, ‘What a great opportunity for the swimmers and citizens of Vigo County,’” said Superintendent Dan Tanoos.

He said that the current high school pools served the district well, but they have outlived their usefulness. Work on the existing pools began in 1968, he noted.

The district is leasing about eight acres from the city of Terre Haute. Mayor Duke Bennett praised the project at the large, underutilized park.

The city has its own plans to make the park a “premier destination,” Bennett said, through an expanded skate park, a splash pad for the public, an expanded playground and a trail around the park.

“In about a year or so you are going to see a total transformation of this park,” Bennett said. “It’s going to be a very exciting time to watch it go up.”

He praised the school district “for letting us be part of this. We think it’s a great decision.”

Board president Paul Lockhart thanked the efforts of a broadbased committee and others who have been involved in the project.

In 13 months, “I think you’ll be very proud of what you see,” he told the large group that attended the event.

Tanoos believes the facility will attract many people to Terre Haute for competitive swimming events and serve as an economic boon for the community.

Randy Jensen, North Vigo swim coach and teacher, said someone recently told him: “We have two lives: one we live, and one we live for. As an aquatics professional, this is definitely a highlight for me.”

The new facility will provide all VCSC kindergarten students with the opportunity to learn how to swim. Other students will use it to train, to use swimming as a fitness alternative and to race in competitive events.

High school students will be able to take lifeguarding and advanced elective swimming classes there.

Garmong Construction Services is the construction manager, with architectural services provided by CSO Architects of Indianapolis.

Outside the aquatic center, a new park entrance along Prairieton Road is planned, as is a “boulevard drive” that would circle in front of the center and lead to two parking areas.

Actual construction of the aquatic center is expected to start in late July after the school board awards contracts; the board’s next meeting is July 21.

The district is still working on construction contracts, as two of the bids — for site work and steel — came in too high and will be rebid. The project involves 11 separate bid packages, said Ralph Wagle of Garmong Construction after the ceremony.

Officials say the pool will be open in time for the start of school in August 2015.

West Vigo High school student and swimmer Amanda Bridgewater also spoke at the groundbreaking.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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