Photographer / Jubilee Edgell
It was one of the hardest phone calls Leanne Senter, Plymouth High School’s diving coach, had ever received. “Leanne, I’m not going to make it this time around,” said multiple-time cancer survivor Dr. Susan Bardwell after discovering that her cancer had returned. Before she passed in August 2012, she asked some fellow swim parents to see to it that the Plymouth High School swim teams would someday have a home pool again.
Bardwell’s dying wish provided fuel for a project that began earlier that year. Jerry Chavez, President and CEO of the Marshall County Economical Development Corporation, explained, “The school corporation got out of the business of operating a pool for their school team. As a result of that, they displaced not only the high school swim team and diving team, but then also displaced the regular kids’ swim programs, locally called the Sharks.”
With that displacement, the high school connected with nearby corporations who could supply practice pools. The high school swim team practiced in the Oregon-Davis Public School pool, which was a 21-minute drive one-way. The younger teams went to Culver Academy to practice, a 24-minute drive.
Several swim team parents and advocates, one of whom had been Dr. Bardwell, were willing to do whatever it took to give the swimmers a home pool. After Bardwell passed away, the rest of the group pushed all the harder to see the project through.
“The conversations when I came five years ago were, ‘How do we raise $14M so we can have a 10-lane pool in Plymouth?’” Chavez says.
Answering that question became their highest priority. Two years ago, a partial solution surfaced: Plymouth sought to gain a Regional Cities Designation.
“It’s a program through the state,” Chavez says. “We applied and we were successful.”
Since the Aquatic Center was a main project in the application, it was awarded $2M. Excited over their victory, the advocates sought out other grants and loans. Finally, in July 2018, there was enough capital to break ground.
“We will, come October 5, have a ribbon cutting with what I would say is a fully-functioning competition pool,” Chavez says. “We’re a bit proud of this.”
For Coach Senter, October 5 means a lot. Not only will it be a day to remember Dr. Bardwell, for whom the Aquatic Center will be named, but also it will be a time to celebrate the culmination of seven years’ hard work.
“It’s the end of a long road, but a journey well-traveled,” Senter says.
However, it’s even more personal than that. “The pool’s going to be named after me. It’s quite an honor and quite humbling.”
The Aquatic Center’s reach will extend beyond competitive swimmers. “It’s built for competition, but it’s also going to be a community pool,” Coach Senter says.
For members, open swim times will be offered daily, along with 15-plus programs, like water aerobics, scuba and snorkeling classes, as well as regular swim lessons.
The Dr. Susan Bardwell Aquatics Center (facebook.com/SusanBardwellAquaticsCenter) is located at 2740 Miller Drive, Plymouth IN. They can be reached at 574-935-3939.