ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

New BHS aquatic center makes a splash in swimming community

A dedication ceremony Wednesday, May 4, marked the center's dedication.

Brainerd High School Aquatics Center Dedication and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.
Brainerd School Board Chair Ruth Nelson, left, and Superintendent Laine Larson watch as student swimmers Grace Haglin and Thomas Ruhl attempt to cut the ribbon Wednesday, May 4, 2022, during Brainerd High School Aquatic Center dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
We are part of The Trust Project.

BRAINERD — The sound of trickling water appropriately echoed as the backdrop when Brainerd High School’s new aquatic center was dedicated Wednesday, May 4.

After a successful bonding referendum and three years of construction that interrupted students’ routes to class, the new eight-lane pool and associated aquatic center is open for athletes in Brainerd and those elsewhere around the state who will undoubtedly visit the facility for competitions and tournaments.

“It took a long time, but we’re here, and I think the wait is well worth it,” said School Board Chair Ruth Nelson during Wednesday’s ceremony.

With a whole host of speakers singing the praises of the new center, the event served as a public thank you to those who worked on the project and a chance for community members to see just how their tax dollars were spent and how they will contribute to the future accomplishments of an already successful swimming program.

People are reflected in the pool while attending the Brainerd High School Aquatics Center Dedication and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.
People are reflected in the pool during the Brainerd High School Aquatics Center dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday, May 4, 2022.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“If you like what they’ve done with six lanes, wait until you see what they can do with eight lanes and a diving well,” Activities Director Jack Freeman said.

ADVERTISEMENT

The older and much smaller six-lane pool put Brainerd behind the times in terms of facilities, Warriors swimmer Thomas Ruhl said, so the upgrade was welcome.

“People are going to enjoy it, especially the future swimmers,” Ruhl said. “They’re going to enjoy this facility for years and years to come.”

With a diving well separate from the main pool, the aquatic center will allow divers their own space and time for practice, senior swimmer Grace Haglin explained. For younger swimmers, it will be a place to grow, and for opponents it will be a place they will want to compete, Haglin said, who also noted the impact on women’s sports in general.

Swim students jump in the new pool during the Brainerd High School Aquatics Center Dedication and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.
Stuent swimmers jump in the new pool Wednesday, May 4, 2022, during the Brainerd High School Aquatic Center dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“Title IX was signed almost exactly 50 years ago,” she said. “… It is still difficult for women to play sports at a professional level. I believe that with access to a facility like this, we will see more of our own swimmers making it to that level of sport.”

Read more
"ISD 181 is in great hands, and it will always have a special place in my heart — a place called home. Once a Warrior, always a Warrior.”

Swimming coaches believe Brainerd now has the best swimming facility in the state after the University of Minnesota, and gym teachers see it as a place for their students to use during class and for Special Olympics athletes to train for competitions. And perhaps in the future, Brainerd could be home to swimming competitions for the Special Olympics, said physical education teacher Aron Anderson.

Others involved in the local swimming community can see the whole Brainerd lakes area benefitting.

Outside of Warrior athletics, groups like the YMCA’s Dolphin Swim Team will make use of the bigger facility for competitions and tournaments. The added lanes will make events run more quickly, Dolphin coach Hal Peterson said, and with room for hundreds of spectators, audience members won’t have to rotate in and out for different events.

And as a parent of Dolphin swimmers, School Board member Charles Black Lance said the importance of Brainerd having an eight-lane pool is clear.

ADVERTISEMENT

“What we had was nice and it’s better than nothing, what we had, but it definitely wasn’t the facility that could compete or draw people to our community in terms of tournaments,” Black Lance said ahead of Wednesday’s ceremony, adding those tournaments and large events impact the local economy by bringing people in to shop, eat and visit other local businesses.

Black Lance said he is now excited to be able to cheer on his swimmers without having to sit behind a glass window and is glad to see more comfortable open space for families who camp out at the pool during all-day events.

And as someone who grew up in northwestern Minnesota, away from lakes and without access to water, Black Lance said having this facility provides that important access for kids and families, ultimately promoting crucial water safety down the road.

Brainerd High School Aquatics Center Dedication and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.
Swimming and diving coaches Dan Anderson, left, and John Zemke unveil a dedication plaque for Brainerd High School's new aquatic center during a ceremony Wednesday, May 4, 2022.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

But none of that access or those opportunities spoke of could have been possible, Superintendent Laine Larson said, without the right team of people working toward a common goal.

“This major milestone was only achieved through incredible teamwork, belief and grit,” Larson said. “It is from my sincere heart that I say thank you. You’ve definitely shown what it means to be a Warrior. A Warrior is someone who never gives up even when the going gets tough.”

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
What to read next
Subscribe and listen to the Brainerd Dispatch Minute at brainerddispatch.com, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.
The Dispatch publishes records as part of its obligation to inform readers about the business of public institutions and to serve as a keeper of the local historical record.
Work begins at Mississippi Landing Trailhead.
Krook was a driving force behind the production of the film, “Rainbow Woman: The Legacy of One Lakota Woman’s Strength.”