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    Judge’s Comment: “The ability to keep fees down is a great asset for members. The partnership with the university is unique, and it seems operators are able to offer something for every age group and category.”

Overcoming the challenges associated with opening a new facility can be tough, but the Christiansburg Aquatic Center, which opened in July 2010, appears to have conquered all the difficulties that have arisen thus far.

Considering that the 64,000-square-foot facility includes a 50-meter Olympic-style competition pool, a beach-entry leisure pool, a heated therapy pool, wet classrooms and dry amenities, including cardio exercise rooms, that’s been no small feat.

One challenge has been how to conduct the precise training needed for lifeguards watching a competitive pool that goes from 7- to 17 feet deep.

To allow full rotation across the entire complex, each guard needs to be experienced in the proper rescue procedures for each pool. As a result, operators developed an intense in-service training program and the staff reviews all procedures monthly.

Guards also are trained to provide top-notch customer service. That has been a priority from day one, along with reasonable prices. CAC offers annual memberships and daily passes, plus classes and other educational programs. To date, operators have sold more than 2,300 memberships, in a town of just over 21,000 residents.

In creating CAC, civic leaders heard and answered residents’ pleas for a “swimming” facility. The facility also serves area students and competitive swimmers through a partnership with Virginia Tech. CAC hosts the university’s home swim meets, and there also are plans to host age group championships and other competitive events. Such functions will bring up to 800 swimmers plus their families to Christiansburg and surrounding areas, thereby boosting the local economy.