Carson Valley Swim Center

The amount of taxpayer dollars the Carson Valley Swim Center receives drives director Shannon Harris and her team to be very dedicated to the community. She says they made a promise to the community to serve them first and keep the facility in excellent condition. The swim center’s programming reflects this promise as well.

Carson Valley Swim Center is considered a special district, something Harris says is unusual for aquatics facilities. While most aquatics centers get funded through the county or Parks and Recreation department, being a special district allows her facility to receive ad valorem taxes from homeowners in the district. Harris estimates that about $2.9 million per year comes from taxes alone, and additional funding comes from user fees, along with food and merchandise sales.

The facility’s resources allow staff to provide recreation, swim and water safety training, and entertainment for the community. Having four indoor pools makes it possible to have year-round programming, with more actually occurring in fall and winter months, when traffic has slowed down, opening up space.

Not all aquatics facilities can offer year-round programming and serve several different community needs. Carson Valley Swim Center has come up with creative solutions to keep programs scheduled and staffed.

Programming for all ages

Since the facility is near open water, one of the swim center’s largest programs and largest missions is to teach swim safety and water safety. Swimming lessons are available for every age group — from children starting at six months old up to adults with little or no swimming skills. Swim lesson programs run all year.

In February, water safety sessions are offered in partnership with the county search and rescue team. “They come in with their rafts and kayaks, and we learn to deal with kids falling out of boats, or we use our water slide [to teach] water safety in moving water,” says aquatic supervisor Sarah Davenport. The objective of this program is to involve parents and kids in water safety education.

For those who want to learn springboard diving, the facility offers summer lessons in two-week sessions. The same program is done during the school year, as Saturday afternoon sessions, to make it easier for parents to attend with their kids.

Special adult swim programs and water aerobics are available year-round in the morning before the pool opens to the public.

“We do water aerobics six days a week, several classes a day, year-round,” Harris says. “We take great pride in that.”

Community outreach

Some programs are designed to integrate the aquatics facility into the larger community. These are created in partnership with either the hospital, physical therapy offices, school district, Douglas County Search and Rescue, and other similar organizations.

For example, the facility neighbors the local high school, so Harris’s team created a partnership with the school to help kids become better swimmers. Davenport co-teaches aquatics classes with a high-school-certified teacher. Kids are also taught lifeguard and CPR first aid courses.

“So if they want a job, they can walk in ... at the end of the school year and fill a lot of our summer employment holes,” Harris says.

This has helped Carson Valley Swim Center stay staffed amid a national lifeguard shortage.

In exchange for its help with the center’s swim lesson program, the Douglas County Search and Rescue team can train at the facility for free. The facility also worked to certify the school district’s bus drivers in CPR, first aid, and AED over the past year.

Safety is at the core of many of the programs.

“If we’re going to have 130,000 to 140,000 visits a year, we want to make sure they all go home safe,” Harris says.

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