OUR OPINION: Tupelo Aquatic Center prepares for swimmers

Years of promotional effort and leadership by generations of swimming boosters and swimmers in Tupelo culminate Saturday in the official opening of the $12 million Tupelo Aquatic Center in Veterans Memorial Park, a benchmark of community effort and city government backing.

The center – with a 20-lane competition pool, four-lane auxiliary heated pool, facilities and seating for 1,500 swimmers and spectators, plus venues for other sports – opens Saturday with a demonstration of all its programs. It then transitions during the rest of 2013 to an early-2014 inauguration as the official headquarters of Tupelo High School’s championship varsity programs, the Swimming USA-affiliated Shockwave swimming team, and year-round public swimming.

It replaces the historic City Park Pool in Rob Leake City Park in the Joyner neighborhood. That facility, fraught with problems of age, is slated for razing, to be replaced with a child-friendly splash pool to help anchor the still-popular neighborhood.

Years of volunteer efforts by parents of THS Golden Wave and Tupelo Shockwave swimming teams, generations of adult exercise and recreational swimmers and several terms of City Hall/City Council administrations, led to its construction.

Mayor Jason Shelton and former Mayor Jack Reed Jr. christened the newly-completed center with an inaugural cannonball on Monday.

Its grand opening will be held on Saturday, when programs that will be available for the public will be demonstrated. These include paddle boarding, scuba diving, aqua Zumba, kickboxing and more.

Seven swimming meets, including two championships are booked for 2014. Swimming program and City Hall leaders expect the competitions to attract cumulatively thousands of visitors to the city and millions of dollars in tourism revenue.

Membership costs for families will be $50 for one month, $125 for three months and $360 for 12 months. For individuals, it will be $25 for one month, $70 for three months and $240 for 12 months. For senior citizens, it’s $20, $55 and $180.

Swimming is popular as a spectator sport at the collegiate, national championship and Olympic levels. Shockwave’s affiliation with Swimming USA is the organizational/competitive link to the national and Olympic teams for the best swimmers.

For most swimmers, however, the aquatic center will become a personal exercise and recreational venue useful for a lifetime.