Steamboat tennis icon Jim Swiggart dies at 69
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS— When Jim Swiggart arrived in Steamboat Springs in 1991, he brought his love of competition, and a passion for tennis to Steamboat’s newest athletic facility, the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs, where he served as director until 2016.
“I think he was proud of being operator of the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs for 25 years,” Jim’s wife, Stacy Swiggart, said. “I think that was always a dream to see that place up and running. It was a wonderful tennis community.”
Jim, who ran the Tennis Center until 2016, passed away Wednesday at age 69 at Rose Medical Center in Denver after suffering a stroke in September. He was also diagnosed with lung cancer shortly before leaving Steamboat, but Stacy said his stroke was not related to his cancer.
What: Jim Swiggart memorial and celebration of life
When: 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30
Where: The Elaine Wolf Theater at the Staenberg-Loup Jewish Community Center of Denver, 350 South Dahlia St.
Friends and family remembered Swiggart as a good friend and a man who loved his family.
“He always lived life to its fullest,” Stacy said.
The couple would have celebrated their 29th wedding anniversary later this month.
“He would say, ‘I want to put a smile on somebody’s face, and if there is somebody that is upset, I want to put a smile on their face, immediately,’” Stacy added.
Jim played college basketball at Western Kentucky University before transferring to Vanderbilt where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. He received a master’s degree in business from Rice University.
A good portion of his career was spent running the tennis facility in Steamboat — a position he held for more than a quarter of a century.
“He was a great mentor to us,” said current Tennis Center director Loretta Conway. “He was the one that invited us to come here, so we feel like we owe him and Stacy a lot.”
Stacy said the couple had every intention of sliding into retirement in the Washington Park neighborhood in Denver.
“Jim tried to retire, but it only lasted 12 hours,” Stacy said. “We have been running the Jewish Community Tennis Center the last two years. It was a fun, fun place to be,”
The couple also stayed active on the courts.
In 2017, the Swiggarts won national outdoor hard court and indoor court championships in the husband-wife division, which helped the couple earn the No. 1 ranking in the country by the United State Tennis Association. Then in May, the Swiggarts placed second at another national tournament.
The success wasn’t surprising for the couple who met on the tennis courts at a United States Player Tennis Association gathering in Texas in the late 1980s.
“He would always joke that he fell in love with mom when she beat him not just in one sport, but all three — golf, tennis and basketball,” Kylee Swiggart, Jim’s daughter, recalls.
“Dad was always my go-to person for advice,” Kylee said. “I think the biggest thing is how can you change somebody’s day from bad to good or just be that light. I think he really lived his life that way and showed it in the way that he loved mom, loved us and loved his friends in the community.”
Son Jamey Swiggart, who played tennis at Idaho State University before transferring to the University of Utah to round out his college career, still remembers shooting baskets in the driveway of the family’s home in Steamboat.
“He was always my biggest role model,” Jamey said. “He treated everybody with such dignity, and he was passionate about helping them, and making their day better.”
Jim’s reach went beyond the walls of his home.
“He was a great guy with an incredible sense of humor,” friend Scott Marr said. “He did a lot for the Steamboat community.”
Marr said he got involved with the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs several years ago because of Jim. When Jim left to help start the Ski Town Rotary Club, Steamboat’s morning club, the two remained friends.
According to Marr, one of Jim’s greatest Rotary accomplishments was helping to organize the Ski Town Classic, a fundraising golf tournament that raised more than $30,000 a year for community projects. Jim was also credited with starting Tango & Cash, another big community fundraiser.
“He was really influential in the community for a number of years,” Jim’s friend Jim “Moose” Barrows said.
“All you have to do is go around the Tennis Center, look at Colorado Mountain College, the Catamount Golf Course and Rotary,” Barrows said.
When Colorado Mountain College was in the process of building its new building, Jim spearheaded efforts to raise money for the expansion as a member of CMC’s Foundation Committee.
Susie Allen, who worked for Jim from 1998 to 2013, said the news Thursday of Jim’s death was a blow to many in Steamboat.
“He was my confidant, my boss and my coach,” Allen said. ”He was a champion of families … He was a great family man and did so much for our community.”
When asked what they will miss most about Jim, Stacy, Kylee and Jamey replied, “everything,” in a resounding chorus.
“I’m going to miss my best friend, my best tennis partner, and I’m going to miss his voice,” Stacy said. “He touched a lot of lives, and he made this world a better place.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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