HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Henrico leaders are one step closer to making sure all children know how to swim in Henrico County.
The YMCA of Greater Richmond, along with the county, broke ground on a brand new indoor-aquatics center Tuesday.
The $10 million facility, which will be located behind the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, is part of a major revitalization goal along Laburnum Avenue. This fall the new Fairfield Library will open to the public.
“Piece by piece we are creating a place for residents and families to nurture and strengthen our bodies, minds and spirits,” said Fairfield District Supervisor Frank Thornton.
“Today is much more than just the dollar success,” said YMCA of Greater Richmond Chairman Matt Clarke. “Today is about success that comes from opportunity. Opportunity for access, for equity, for learning.”
More specifically learning how to swim from the community's older population to the young.
Zella Gray and her five-month-old granddaughter, Lola, turned out for the major event Tuesday.
"She has a 10-year-old brother and he loves the water,” Gray said. “So being able to bring the both of them here is going to be fantastic."
Lola and her brother will be able to take advantage of an eight-lane, 25-yard pool, family spray area and a water-slide. But beyond the fun, is the opportunity to learn something new.
"I started last year at my age,” Gray said. “I'm excited because it's something that we need to do. Something that we need to teach our children."
"The second leading cause of death in children under 12 years old is drowning,” said YMCA of Greater Richmond CEO TJ Joyce. “We can do something about that."
The YMCA of Greater Richmond plans to expand its Learn to Swim program with area school systems to this facility in Henrico's east end.
"Every child that is in second grade that attends a Title I school gets swim lessons for free during the school day," Joyce said.
YMCA's partnership with Henrico will help support the mission to “drown-proof” the County.
"We’re going to teach every second grader to swim, just as we teach them to read or write," said County Manager John Vithoulkas.
"The Henrico Aquatics Center is a shining example of what we can accomplish as a community when there is a need," Thornton said.
A need to prevent families from dealing with the devastation of unintentional drownings.
"Nothing is guaranteed, but if we can put that education out there, it gives us a better chance," Gray said.
The 21,000-square-foot facility will offer swim lesson to people of all ages, aquatics exercise programs, classes for rehabilitation services for people with special needs, and will host practices and meets for Henrico high school swim teams and be available for use by Henrico’s youth summer camps and community groups.
The YMCA of Greater Richmond will run the aquatics center which will be open to the public through “means-based memberships,” daily rates and public swim opportunities.
County leaders anticipate the center to open early 2020.
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