GRAND RAPIDS – After many decades of summer fun and competition, things were looking bleak for the 2020 Bowling Green Gators Swim Team.
The pool in Bowling Green City Park was closed and traveling to Findlay was not working out.
“We needed a place where we could go with a reasonable drive time,” said Carolyn Strunk, the head coach of the Gators. “The big thing was that the families were not really concerned with meets, just having their kids be in the water.”
The answer was Grand Rapids.
“We didn’t know what Bowling Green State University was going to do, so we wondered what would it take for us to be able to swim outside at Grand Rapids,” Strunk said. “When I met with Monica (Thompson, the treasurer for the Grand Rapids Pool Board) and a couple of other people on the board, I asked what it would take to bring people out.”
The pool board agreed to go with the Gators in opening the pool.
With help from Strunk, her swimmers, parents and staff along with the Grand Rapids Pool Board, there is now a summer session with 80 swimmers taking part.
“We had 12 swimmers and parents come out to clean the pool to get it prepared and drained,” Strunk said. “I had someone show me how to do the black lines and I had people come out and paint.”
With the Gators coming to Grand Rapids, it was a big help money-wise for the pool board.
Over Memorial Day weekend, the pool board decided not to open the pool because of coronavirus mandates from the State of Ohio. It was not going to be feasible for the cost and not enough profit for the board.
“Then Carolyn contacted me desperately looking for a place for these kids to swim,” Thompson said. “She approached me with a plan that they had and we decided to partner together. Their need for a pool and being able to rent with them gave us some financial stability.
“This pool operates mostly on donations,” Thompson continued. “It costs roughly $30,000 a year to operate. Usually our fundraisers each year are at the tractor pull and the Apple Butter Fest. That’s two fund raisers that we are not going to have this year. And then we sell advertising on our fence and there are none up this year.”
Thompson said that the board will be receiving the Triple P (Paycheck Protection Program) loan that will help cover the cost of lifeguards for the summer.
As of June 17, the Gators are in the pool in the mornings. On June 22, the pool was opened for lap swims.
Meanwhile Thompson is using Signup Genius to create 10 family slots at a time of two hours for pool use in the afternoon. The slots are from 2-4 and 5-7 p.m. The family swims will start on Monday. The families can reserve a slot and pay in advance through Signup Genius. Allison Sargent is offering a Zumba class starting today.
“We have a liability waiver that everyone has to sign to come in,” Thompson said. “There will be no children at the pool without an adult. If we find that a parent has come in with their children and then leaves them unattended they will not be allowed back the rest of the season.
“It was definitely a team effort to get it open this year.”
Both the Gators and the Grand Rapids Pool Board are following the protocols needed for social distancing.
“It has been a work in progress, but it has been a pretty good collaborative effort to keep everything safe for everybody and moving in a positive direction,” Strunk said.
Currently the Gators are using the five lanes in the deep end of the pool to practice.
“It’s fine tuning a lot of things, because there are not going to be a lot of big championship meets this summer, we think,” Strunk said. “It’s just a matter of keeping a feel for the water and encouraging them to stay with it. And get them ready for when we can get them in the water and be back to semi normal.”
The sessions are one hour and 20 minutes, but there can be only 15 swimmers at a time so the team is doing five or six groups each day. There are also dry lanes sessions.
“It’s long mornings,” Strunk said. “The kids have been coming to practice, attendance has been great and they are happy to be in the water. With what we are doing right now, it doesn’t matter that the pool is a tiny bit short. It’s still better than sitting at home on the couch and not being in the water.
“I just want to thank the Grand Rapids Pool Board. If they had not been amenable to having us come out here and make all these changes and work with us on what other things to do to bring out other people in a safe manner, this would not be happening at all,” she added.
The plan for the Gators is to use the Grand Rapids pool until late August, and then get started again in the fall as long as BGSU is open.