Come spring, area children will have a new climate-controlled, indoor pool where they can learn to swim.
The owners of Dolphin Academy Swim School announced Monday they were building the area’s first dedicated indoor teaching facility in Columbia County.
Work will begin this week on converting a 7,000-square-foot storefront next to Academy Sports+Outdoors in Evans into a full-time swim school with a heated 75-by-25-foot pool, said owners Amy Ristroph and Lee Fuller.
The two have been teaching swimming at the Augusta Aquatic Center and area neighborhood pools for years and incorporated their swim school in 2011.
The idea began germinating when they went to visit another swim school in Texas several years ago. Ristroph said the facility, which was built inside a shopping strip mall, was a revelation.
“Everything was child size,” she said. “It was amazing.”
Fuller said the model is based on one that began in Australia and has been gradually making its way into the United States over the past decade. The Texas swim school was brightly colored, warm and inviting, she said, designed for the sole purpose of teaching children to swim.
“The kids were having fun; the water was warm,” Fuller said. “Everyone was happy.”
Ristroph said the Dolphin Academy facility will be different from other multipurpose pools, which are used for everything from swim meets to water aerobics.
“It’s not going to be intimidating like the big Aquatic Center can be for some children,” Ristroph said. “This will be small, safe. Each child will have their own area.”
The pool will feature an ultraviolet light water purification system, which reduces the amount of chlorine and other chemicals needed keep the water clean and safe. It will have eight climate-controlled changing rooms and a viewing room where parents can watch children take classes.
The facility will be the only one of its kind in the area. The nearest cities with similar swim school facilities are Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C., Ristroph said.
Fuller said they have been working on a plan and searching for locations for more than two years. In the meantime, the number of students has been growing. She said they have a waiting list for all age groups, which start at 6 months and extend to adults. They expect to open registration for the new facility in February.
“We knew the only way we could grow was to have our own place,” Fuller said. “We are maxed out now.”