78.5 F
Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, May 22, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesPOOL EVOLVING FROM DREAM TO CONCRETE REALITY

POOL EVOLVING FROM DREAM TO CONCRETE REALITY

Nov. 29, 2001 – With a balance of $21.72 left from the $501,857 that's been poured into it, the Community Aquatic Center on St. Thomas's East End is definitely taking on the appearance of a pool.
It isn't all over but the swimming yet, by any means, Katherine Huttel, St. Thomas Swimming Association executive director, says. But the facility that's appearing before her eyes now is, well, concrete — unlike the one in her dreams more than 13 years ago. It seems a lifetime removed even from the first excavation just six years ago, a 25-meter hole no sooner dug than halfway filled in again by Hurricane Marilyn.
Huttel breathes a tiny sign of relief, what she allows herself most days on the project that she and STSA undertook in the late 1980s. The path to the pool has been filled with what Huttel calls "hiccups," lots of them, which don't allow for easy breathing. Funding has been the major one.
Financing for the last phase of the work came earlier this year from an unlikely and unexpected source — the V.I. government. Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Finance Committee chair, drafted a $250,000 appropriation for the pool as part of her agenda to assist the territory's marine industry.
"We had never lobbied the Legislature or any other government agency for funds," Huttel said at the time. "I'm so excited and grateful."
On Thursday, she added that the windfall "was perfect timing" that will allow the "finishing" of the project to get under way. The money will cover the tiling, filtering system, fencing, ozone generator, lane lines, lifeguard stands, starting blocks, ring buoys, lights and other "finishing touches."
The final touch, the water — enough for the first fill — will be donated by the Water and Power Authority, with an assist from the V.I. Housing Authority, which will provide the trucks to take it from the Tutu standpipe to the pool in Estate Nazareth. From then on, though, STSA will have to include water in its operating costs.
Tiling is well under way
Last week, Huttel was worried about when the work would start, because materials hadn't arrived from off island. On Thursday, she was elated. "The tiles came Monday, and the fencing Tuesday, and we're up and running," she said. "The pool is already one-quarter tiled."
She has been at this too long to offer even a best guess for opening day. But when it comes, she said, "I'll be in the water — maybe with some synchronized swimming if I can still do it."
Meanwhile, there's work to do. "We have to raise funds for operating expenses, those initial start-up things," she said. "Before spring, I hope we're able to do that."
A big "hiccup" occurred in September, when Edward O'Brien, owner of O'Brien Construction, died in a tragic parachuting accident. "Eddie was with us for 10 years," Huttel recalled. "He walked us through all along. When we first went out to the site, Eddie and Barbara [his wife] went hand in hand with us. He has always been right there. We wouldn't be where we are without O 'Brien Construction."
The construction company has continued to help with the pool work, and one of its subcontractors is currently doing the fencing. They charge for the work, but at reasonable rates, she said.
The O'Briens' daughter Kelly has been in the STSA swim program for years, along with Huttel's two daughters. "Barbara was the first parent chaperone to sign up," Huttel said.
The not-for-profit association is well-known for its learn-to-swim programs run in conjunction with other groups including the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Special Olympics and the Reformation Lutheran Church Summer Camp.
Huttel's focus has remained constant from the start: to teach local children to swim in a non-threatening environment, protected from the elements. Having taught STSA lessons at Magens Bay for years, she has long recognized the need for a pool for adults as well as children, for both exercise and rehabilitation. Just for starters is the problem that in a tropical environment that's warm year-round, classes still have to be suspended in the winter — because the surf is too rough.
Even so, STSA has provided swimming lessons, competitive training and aquatic certification to more than 9,000 residents of St. Thomas and St. John.
The swimming association's competitive team, the St. Thomas Stingrays, has trained mainly at Magens Bay for years. Lacking experience in pool swimming conditions, the youngsters have had a difficult time in swim meets off island — even on St. Croix, where the Dolphins team has trained in a regulation pool at Country Day School for decades.
The STSA swimmers "aren't trained properly in fine tuning of swim meets, making turns accurately, so they hit the walls," Huttel said. The result is that "good, serious swimmers … get very frustrated because of the lack of facilities here. They turn to volleyball instead."
While training competitive swimmers is priority of the association, teaching people, especially young people, to swim is the main reason for developing the aquatic center. It has always been Huttel's goal to get all V.I. children into the water, swimming, and not afraid of the aquatic environment that surrounds them.
The struggle to stay financially afloat
Fund-raising toward that end has become second nature to her over the years. "One day the pool will be able to generate revenue," she said, "but we always will have to raise funds."
Outside of the government appropriation, the greatest gift has come from Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises, which in 1999 contributed $100,000. Locally, the West Indian Co. has given $10,000, and for 13 years Bellows International has sponsored the association's annual Snapple Swim-O-Thon fund-raiser at Magens Bay.
A few days after getting the grant from Royal Caribbean, Huttel recalled having stood at the pool site months earlier with representatives from the cruise line. "We were there in the hot sun, in the bush, with nobody around but the cows," she said. "It was like we were out in the middle of nowhere, and their major question was, 'Who's going to use this?' But I told them — 10,000 students in schools on that end of the island alone, all able to get there by bus." And that did it, she said; the company pledged the $100,000 then and there.
With the money from the cruise line and $187,800 the association had raised in other ways over the years, the big concrete step — pouring the pool — was taken.
"Both the cruise line's donation and Sen. Hansen's were out of the blue," Huttel said. "But the main gifts I treasure are the gifts from people's hearts. We have raised $501,857 from Day 1." Last year, thanks to people's giving hearts, STSA raised $60,000 from the Swim-O-Thon, a golf tournament and Christmas tree sales.
Huttel said she's been discouraged at times when people have come up to her on the street and said things like, "You're still doing that after all this time?" While many well-intentioned programs hit a brick wall and just come to a halt, or lower their goals, she said, "we won't do that. And we won't compromise — compromise is not part of it."
For instance, she said, the rails for the pool's handicap access ramps will be stainless steel. "We could have done it for less, but it wouldn't be as good," she said.
Although the end for the pool construction seems to be almost in sight, the project has just begun. The olympic pool is just Phase 1. Eventually, the complex is to encompass two pools, concession areas and dorms for visiting athletes.
Huttel said the government will get its investment back in seeing children who aren't afraid of the water, who will get involve
d in the marine industry, who will train to be boat captains. "If they can't swim, they can't do it," she said.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.




Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.

STAY CONNECTED

20,771FansLike
4,719FollowersFollow

FROM FACEBOOK

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
Load more
Nov. 29, 2001 - With a balance of $21.72 left from the $501,857 that's been poured into it, the Community Aquatic Center on St. Thomas's East End is definitely taking on the appearance of a pool.
It isn't all over but the swimming yet, by any means, Katherine Huttel, St. Thomas Swimming Association executive director, says. But the facility that's appearing before her eyes now is, well, concrete -- unlike the one in her dreams more than 13 years ago. It seems a lifetime removed even from the first excavation just six years ago, a 25-meter hole no sooner dug than halfway filled in again by Hurricane Marilyn.
Huttel breathes a tiny sign of relief, what she allows herself most days on the project that she and STSA undertook in the late 1980s. The path to the pool has been filled with what Huttel calls "hiccups," lots of them, which don't allow for easy breathing. Funding has been the major one.
Financing for the last phase of the work came earlier this year from an unlikely and unexpected source -- the V.I. government. Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Finance Committee chair, drafted a $250,000 appropriation for the pool as part of her agenda to assist the territory's marine industry.
"We had never lobbied the Legislature or any other government agency for funds," Huttel said at the time. "I'm so excited and grateful."
On Thursday, she added that the windfall "was perfect timing" that will allow the "finishing" of the project to get under way. The money will cover the tiling, filtering system, fencing, ozone generator, lane lines, lifeguard stands, starting blocks, ring buoys, lights and other "finishing touches."
The final touch, the water -- enough for the first fill -- will be donated by the Water and Power Authority, with an assist from the V.I. Housing Authority, which will provide the trucks to take it from the Tutu standpipe to the pool in Estate Nazareth. From then on, though, STSA will have to include water in its operating costs.
Tiling is well under way
Last week, Huttel was worried about when the work would start, because materials hadn't arrived from off island. On Thursday, she was elated. "The tiles came Monday, and the fencing Tuesday, and we're up and running," she said. "The pool is already one-quarter tiled."
She has been at this too long to offer even a best guess for opening day. But when it comes, she said, "I'll be in the water -- maybe with some synchronized swimming if I can still do it."
Meanwhile, there's work to do. "We have to raise funds for operating expenses, those initial start-up things," she said. "Before spring, I hope we're able to do that."
A big "hiccup" occurred in September, when Edward O'Brien, owner of O'Brien Construction, died in a tragic parachuting accident. "Eddie was with us for 10 years," Huttel recalled. "He walked us through all along. When we first went out to the site, Eddie and Barbara [his wife] went hand in hand with us. He has always been right there. We wouldn't be where we are without O 'Brien Construction."
The construction company has continued to help with the pool work, and one of its subcontractors is currently doing the fencing. They charge for the work, but at reasonable rates, she said.
The O'Briens' daughter Kelly has been in the STSA swim program for years, along with Huttel's two daughters. "Barbara was the first parent chaperone to sign up," Huttel said.
The not-for-profit association is well-known for its learn-to-swim programs run in conjunction with other groups including the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Special Olympics and the Reformation Lutheran Church Summer Camp.
Huttel's focus has remained constant from the start: to teach local children to swim in a non-threatening environment, protected from the elements. Having taught STSA lessons at Magens Bay for years, she has long recognized the need for a pool for adults as well as children, for both exercise and rehabilitation. Just for starters is the problem that in a tropical environment that's warm year-round, classes still have to be suspended in the winter -- because the surf is too rough.
Even so, STSA has provided swimming lessons, competitive training and aquatic certification to more than 9,000 residents of St. Thomas and St. John.
The swimming association's competitive team, the St. Thomas Stingrays, has trained mainly at Magens Bay for years. Lacking experience in pool swimming conditions, the youngsters have had a difficult time in swim meets off island -- even on St. Croix, where the Dolphins team has trained in a regulation pool at Country Day School for decades.
The STSA swimmers "aren't trained properly in fine tuning of swim meets, making turns accurately, so they hit the walls," Huttel said. The result is that "good, serious swimmers ... get very frustrated because of the lack of facilities here. They turn to volleyball instead."
While training competitive swimmers is priority of the association, teaching people, especially young people, to swim is the main reason for developing the aquatic center. It has always been Huttel's goal to get all V.I. children into the water, swimming, and not afraid of the aquatic environment that surrounds them.
The struggle to stay financially afloat
Fund-raising toward that end has become second nature to her over the years. "One day the pool will be able to generate revenue," she said, "but we always will have to raise funds."
Outside of the government appropriation, the greatest gift has come from Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises, which in 1999 contributed $100,000. Locally, the West Indian Co. has given $10,000, and for 13 years Bellows International has sponsored the association's annual Snapple Swim-O-Thon fund-raiser at Magens Bay.
A few days after getting the grant from Royal Caribbean, Huttel recalled having stood at the pool site months earlier with representatives from the cruise line. "We were there in the hot sun, in the bush, with nobody around but the cows," she said. "It was like we were out in the middle of nowhere, and their major question was, 'Who's going to use this?' But I told them -- 10,000 students in schools on that end of the island alone, all able to get there by bus." And that did it, she said; the company pledged the $100,000 then and there.
With the money from the cruise line and $187,800 the association had raised in other ways over the years, the big concrete step -- pouring the pool -- was taken.
"Both the cruise line's donation and Sen. Hansen's were out of the blue," Huttel said. "But the main gifts I treasure are the gifts from people's hearts. We have raised $501,857 from Day 1." Last year, thanks to people's giving hearts, STSA raised $60,000 from the Swim-O-Thon, a golf tournament and Christmas tree sales.
Huttel said she's been discouraged at times when people have come up to her on the street and said things like, "You're still doing that after all this time?" While many well-intentioned programs hit a brick wall and just come to a halt, or lower their goals, she said, "we won't do that. And we won't compromise -- compromise is not part of it."
For instance, she said, the rails for the pool's handicap access ramps will be stainless steel. "We could have done it for less, but it wouldn't be as good," she said.
Although the end for the pool construction seems to be almost in sight, the project has just begun. The olympic pool is just Phase 1. Eventually, the complex is to encompass two pools, concession areas and dorms for visiting athletes.
Huttel said the government will get its investment back in seeing children who aren't afraid of the water, who will get involve d in the marine industry, who will train to be boat captains. "If they can't swim, they can't do it," she said.