Fish out of water: Impending pool closure could leave Steamboat’s best swimmers floundering
The Old Town Hot Springs lap pool will undergo a complete makeover beginning this fall as part of the It’s In The Water project. The plan is to scrap the existing pool constructed in the 1960s and replace it with a new pool that can host swim meets.
The hope for the $10 million project is to bring more attention to swimming locally and get more people involved with the sport. While the project will be great for local swimmers in the long run, several Steamboat Springs Swim Team members will be severely hampered by the impending nine-month pool closure.
Steamboat Springs Swim Team sophomore Stovin Briggs has been swimming for as long as he can remember. Briggs has been one of the top swimmers on the team and has a unique passion for the sport.
With the closure, Briggs will miss the entirety of his junior competition season that runs from fall 2023 through the end of winter 2024. Briggs said it is going to be very difficult to stay in top swimming form through a nine-month hiatus.
He has aspirations to take swimming to the next level and compete in college but is concerned the pool closure will damage his future.
“Not swimming for nine months sets you back a whole lot,” Briggs said. “I’m going to miss my junior year where I would have several opportunities to swim and hit new personal bests while showing colleges I’m a worthwhile swimmer. Instead, I don’t get to and I have to go into the next year with less experience and time.”
Briggs and several other athletes on the swim team have begun to shift their focus onto other sports and keep their athletic options open for the time being.
Briggs has joined the Steamboat Springs track and field team as a mid-distance runner. Others will compete on the high school’s baseball and tennis teams as well.
Old Town Hot Springs and swim team head coach Charlie Coates have exhausted their options trying to find a local temporary pool the team could use during the closure.
“We looked at renting out a pool space from other pools in town, but nothing has been viable to date to allow the swim team to continue to swim through this coming fall,” Coates said.
Coates is asking anyone who might have a lead on finding a pool for her team to use to contact her directly at email@example.com.
If no pool is found, Coates said she and the team will make the most of their situation. She plans to offer a dryland training program to keep her athletes in shape throughout the closure and will pick things back up where they left them when the pool reopens in summer 2024.
Once finished, the facility will have an eight-lane pool complete with a diving board and a separate pool for those taking swim lessons, so the two do not invade each other’s space.
Coates is also hoping the weather can cooperate each year and said the big vision is to have Old Town become a destination meet for competitors across the state.
The existing pool does not adhere to USA Swimming regulations, which prevents it from hosting meets.
“It’s not deep enough,” Coates said. “It tapers down and the shallowest lane is too shallow. I think it’s a couple inches short of 25 yards, so it doesn’t meet regulations. It’s lived its life.”
Coates and Briggs agree that finally having a competition pool is exciting for Steamboat as a whole, but the timing is unfortunate for the affected athletes.
Briggs said he will never leave the sport permanently and will stick with it this year as long as he can.
“I definitely plan on swimming until we can’t swim anymore,” Briggs said. “Even if we can do dryland training during the off period, I’ll definitely do that.”
To reach Tom Skulski, call 970-871-4240, email tskulski@SteamboatPilot.com.
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