Autumn Natcher wore her swimsuit under her Greenwood High School swim team T-shirt just in case.
The senior stood anxiously at the edge of the crystal blue waters Thursday afternoon as more than 100 people gathered for the ribbon cutting for the new Warren County Academic and Aquatic Center.
For Natcher, the eight-lane swimming pool that has been under construction for about a year and a half, was well worth the wait.
The new indoor pool on Lovers Lane is scheduled to officially open to the public at noon Saturday, but Natcher said she is ready to begin having practice in the new facility - as it leaps and dives above the team’s previous practice arrangements.
Until now, the Greenwood swim team would have to rent lanes from Western Kentucky University’s Preston Center, and would sometimes have only three lanes to share among more than 50 members.
Swim coach Kelly Hargis said the team had to have practice whenever there was available time, meaning some practices would run from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., with students returning home at 10 p.m. and trying to get homework finished.
Natcher said she thinks more people will want to join the swim team, while the other high schools may want to form their own teams because of the new facility.
“It’s exciting,” she said. “It’s something we’ve all wanted for so long and to actually have our own pool, I’m glad they did it in time for our senior year. Bowling Green (High School) has had their own pool and they have such a good program … I think this will better our program.”
Kenny Stanfield, the architect who designed the $4.8 million building with Sherman Carter Barnhart of Louisville, said watching the faces of the swim team and children as they admired the 12.5-foot-deep pool, gave him a sense of satisfaction.
“As I walked around the corner and saw them beaming on the diving board, it made it all worthwhile,” Stanfield said, adding that the entire facility was designed for high school competition. “It was great to see the crowd here today, but these are the kids this facility was made for.”
The indoor pool will be managed by Warren County Parks and Recreation and will be open year-round for public swimming. The only exception is when high school swim teams have practice.
David Jones, the pool’s manager, said the swimming facility can hold 104 people, while more than 500 can stand around the deck.
Jones said after October, swimming lessons, private parties and even water aerobics are scheduled to begin for the public.
“It’s probably one of the nicest facilities I’ve ever seen,” he said of the 18,000-square-foot building with 24-foot-high walls. “It’s family oriented and will be a fun place to come.”
As lifeguards sat in chairs with their whistles perched in their lips, several city, county and state officials gathered to discuss the significance of the pool, which was constructed to replace the former public swim facility at T.C. Cherry Elementary School.
That pool was torn down when the new elementary school began being built in its place nearly two years ago.
Warren County Superintendent Dale Brown said the new facility has been in discussion for nine years and will not only benefit students athletically, but also academically.
The facility contains two classrooms that will house the county’s new Gifted Education in Math and Science program, which will provide problem-based math and science experiences to 120 low-income and minority students who have an interest or talent in math, science, technology or engineering. The program became possible with a five-year, $2 million grant by WKU, and will begin the second week of school once selected students from Lost River and Cumberland Trace elementary schools are notified.
“We have to focus on meeting the needs of students,” Brown said. “And we need to cover all areas for all students.”
Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon said the only complaint he has heard about the pool was that the water will be kept at 82 degrees for the swim team’s comfort. But as sweat dripped from the foreheads of many suited spectators, several commented that the temperature seemed just fine.
Bowling Green Mayor Elaine Walker said the pool was a perfect example of how the “whole is greater than the parts” as the city, county and school districts have come together with the pool for the betterment of the community.
“This will be a great opportunity for all young people,” she said.
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Saturday: noon-5 p.m.
Wednesday, Sunday: Closed
Adults (18 and up): $6
Youth (2 to 17): $5
Seniors (50 and older): $4
*Call 842-5302 for information about schedules, programs, discounts, monthly memberships and general pool information.