Stillwater Public Schools looks forward to use of new YMCA for swim teams

May 30—With the recent announcement of the new YMCA, Stillwater Public Schools looks forward to new possibilities for its swim teams.

The new facility will be located on 12th Avenue between the Washington School and Total Health Fitness, and groundbreaking is expected to begin in 2025. The new Y will expand from 35,000 square feet to more than 56,000 square feet once construction is finished.

With the loss of the indoor pool at the Oklahoma State University Colvin Center and the renovation at the City pool this summer, the new pool will help accelerate the SPS swim program for future students.

The expansion will provide three extra swim lanes, making a total of eight lanes instead of the five they have been using.

"What that will do for us is allow us to host competitions," said Brian Warwick said, SPS athletic director. "That's what's exciting for us and that's how it's a benefit to our kids."

Although the teams could train in a five-lane pool, they wouldn't be able to hold competitions, so the possibility of eight lanes will almost double what they've currently been able to accomplish.

Warwick said the old Y has been aging out for a while, and the cost of repairing isn't worth it.

"They've been a huge godsend for our swim program by allowing us to use the YMCA for the swimming pool," Warwick said.

Most schools can't afford their own eight-lane or even five-lane lap pools. Warwick has spoken with the athletic department at Jenks High School, where the high school has its own pool onsite. He said the team told him that even two air condition units at the indoor pool cost $1 million each.

Warwick said SPS has slowly been growing its swim program, but the new facilities will promote that growth. The possibility of new locker rooms and the pool itself for the teams is also something he's looking forward to.

The SPS girls' swim team with its elite squadron of swimmers — Avery Littlefield, Gwendolyn Mendez, Mazie Finch and Olivia Lao-Alvarado — set a new school record of 1:40.36 in the 200-yard freestyle relay in February.

Wins like that spark interest in swim teams in general.

"Anytime you get new facilities, you generally see an influx of interest," Warwick said. "One of the hopes for us is this will help springboard and grow our boys' and girls' swim programs."

Warwick also pointed out the community aspect of the pool — saying it's not just the district's program that will allow for growth, but also OSU's Swim Club, the Stillwater community swim club and possibly community swim lessons for children.

"If you look around at communities that people look to to mimic and emulate, those communities have a lot of things in common," Warwick said. "One of them is a strong public school that's fully funded and supported by the community. They also have things within the community like splash pads, swimming pools, YMCA, community involvement."

Stillwater Capital Campaign Cabinet Chair David Houston told the News Press their campaign is seeking to raise $6 million for the new YMCA, and the total cost of the project will be in excess of $30 million, based on the current plans.

Of the $95 million SPS school bond issue, $3 million has already been allotted to invest in a partnership with the Stillwater YMCA on the aquatic facility.

When the $95 million bond was originally proposed, the district had planned to make an annual contribution of about $40,000 toward the use of the facility for the swim team, special needs students and a possible water safety class for second-graders, as previously reported by the News Press.

SPS Superintendent Uwe Gordon said the district's plans are still on schedule and no new issues have surfaced regarding the district's use of the pool at the YMCA.

"We are excited and supportive of the campaign to raise the money they need to build the new facility and confident the Stillwater community will step up and help," Gordon said. "Our students will benefit a great deal from the new pool and other programs."

He said the pool is the district's focus since it's used by many students — ranging from special needs to state champion swimmers.

"The YMCA staff has always been great to work with and have always supported SPS and our students," Gordon said. "I am very excited that they are making this effort to improve with the building of an entirely new facility."