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Long-Awaited Community Aquatic Center to Open This Sunday

Oct. 26, 2006 After 20 years of surmounting one obstacle after another including its first excavation being unexpectedly filled in by Hurricane Marilyn the Royal Caribbean International & Celebrity Cruises Community Aquatic Center pool will officially open this Sunday at 3 p.m.
Katherine Huttel, St. Thomas Swimming Association (STSA) executive director, who has shepherded the project though endless growing pains, is now a happy woman.
"We finished the insurance earlier this year," she said, "which allowed us to start a search for an aquatic director, and we found Elizabeth Davis." According to Huttel, Davis was the project's finishing touch.
The not-for-profit STSA is well-known for its swimming instruction programs run in conjunction with other groups, including the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Special Olympics and the Reformation Lutheran Church Summer Camp. Huttel's focus has remained constant from the start: to teach local children to swim in a non-threatening environment, protected from the elements.
Having taught STSA lessons at Magens Bay for years, Huttel has long recognized the need for a pool for adults as well as children, for both exercise and rehabilitation — year-round. (In the past, swim lessons at Magens were suspended during winter months because of the rough surf.)
Despite the previously less-than-ideal conditions, STSA has provided swimming lessons, competitive training and aquatic certification to more than 9,000 residents of St. Thomas and St. John. The swimming association's competitive team, the St. Thomas Stingrays, has trained mainly at Magens Bay for years. Lacking experience in pool swimming conditions, the youngsters have had a difficult time in swim meets off island — even on St. Croix, where the Dolphins team has trained in a regulation pool at Country Day School for decades.
Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises in 1999 contributed $125,000 to the project. Locally, the West Indian Co. has given $10,000, and for 13 years Bellows International has sponsored the association's annual Snapple Swim-O-Thon fund-raiser at Magens Bay.
Sunday's event is open to the public. The pool is located in Estate Nazareth, adjacent to the armory.
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