Panam Sports and World Aquatics has pledged to supply the BVI with a 25-metre, world-class swimming pool to be installed and managed by the H Lavity Stoutt Community College (HLSCC).
The pool is valued at around $400,000 and the Virgin Islands
Recovery & Development Agency (RDA) has been invited to oversee and manage the preparations and construction of the aquatic centre within which the pool will be built.
According to the HLSCC, the next step in the process is to develop a proposal to get funding for the civil works and ancillary elements to construct the aquatic centre. HLSCC President Dr Richard Georges said such elements include changing facilities, a gym and therapy area, stands, storage rooms, etcetera.”
Dr Georges said the college has already identified potential financiers for the project.
The pool, in the meantime, will be used to support a learn-to-swim programme locally while also serving the training needs of locally-based persons interested in competitive swimming. The pool will also allow swimmers to compete in official, internationally recognised distances.
Survival skills lessons
A media release from the BVIOC issued on Wednesday said other plans for the swimming pool include using it to teach basic survival skills through progressive swimming lessons offered at all levels.
The release further said the BVI Swimming Federation is now expected to resume its coaching and competitive training programmes to host regional and international meets.
“We know that the BVI Swimming Federation has been waiting for a very long time to see such a project come to fruition so finally having a swimming pool that will be accessible to all, and which will allow the sport of swimming to take off in the BVI is an exciting development for the territory,” said President of the BVI Olympic Committee (BVIOC) Ephraim Penn.
“We are surrounded by sea and survival in the water has to be a fundamental skill that is learned from an early age. From there, the grassroots take hold and the sport will develop naturally. We have already produced an Olympic swimmer and we know that there are young swimmers here with the budding skills who are training with KATS and BVI Swim School and who already are competing at regional meets.”
Six months of talks
In the meantime, Panam Sports committed to supplying the pool following six months of discussions between the BVIOC President, the HLSCC President, and Panam Sports officials.
The international swimming federation noted that it identified the installation of public and competition-standard swimming pools as an urgent need for the Caribbean. Its donation to the BVI is expected to be a pilot scheme for other national Olympic committees in the region.
“The BVI has already made its mark in swimming with the likes of Olympian Elinah Phillip and this, along with our history of support for the development of the BVI’s athletes, coaches, sports and sporting facilities like the Mondo track at the A.O. Shirley Recreation Ground, helped us to identify the [BVI’s] national Olympic committee as the beneficiary of our offer to provide a training and competition pool provided they could find a location and a partner that would be responsible for civil works and the maintenance and management of the facility, which should be accessible to all,” said Panam Sports President Neven Ilic.
Pool provides stability to HLSCC’s maritime courses
And according to Penn, HLSCC’s President approached the BVIOC back in July with an offer of partnership for the installation of a swimming pool following a response Penn had given to a question on the status of swimming in the territory at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games press conference.
“The HLSCC currently offers a range of accredited maritime certifications that prepare students to work in the marine and marine tourism industries,” Dr Georges said. “Having our own facility will provide stability to those programmes while enabling us to evolve our campus into a comprehensive educational institution that supports the development of student life while strengthening its regional and international appeal to third-party educators,” he added.
Education & Sports Minister Sharie de Castro said her ministry is pleased that HLSCC has collaborated with the private sector to deliver the facility. She further commended Dr Georges and Penn and thanked Panam Sports for its commitment.