NORWALK, Conn. -- Jump in, the water's fine: A new Norwalk swimming facility opened its doors this week. But the path to get there took more than three years, numerous meetings and several committed residents.
“We were at a children’s swim meet at MIT, and the pool was beautiful,’’ said Toni Phillips, one of four managing partners of Swim Seventy at 8 Willard Road. “My husband (John) said we should build a pool. I said he was crazy.”
The Phillips’ timing, however, could not have been better. Shortly after they started planning, the Norwalk YMCA closed, leaving the pools at Norwalk High School and LA Fitness as the city's only indoor venues for swimmers.
USA Swimming was also starting a project to help build for-profit pools because pools across the country were closing. Using that project as a model, the Phillips moved ahead with their partners, Ashlee Bunt of Fairfield and Robert Polley.
“Once we saw it was feasible that we could run a business and determined Norwalk we could do it, we pushed ahead,’’ Toni Phillips said. “It was bigger than we ever imagined. The biggest hurdle was finding the right location.”
The location on Willard Road is just off the Post Road, near the Westport border. The group is leasing two properties from separate owners.
“That enabled us to have enough parking,’’ Phillips said. “We knew it was a good location. We looked all over Norwalk. That was our last spot, but it really is the best choice.”
The centerpiece at Swim Seventy is the 50-meter, six-lane pool. A walkway in the center divides it into two 25-yard pools. There is also a large pool for swim lessons and fitness classes, and an endless, single-person pool for swim analysis and therapy.
Swim Seventy has already created a swim team, and lessons, parties, fitness and rehabilitation programs are part of the business mix. The other major component to Swim Seventy is a triathlon training program run by Faifield’s Pascale Butcher. The owner of Trifitness is moving her business to the Norwalk facility.
Phillips said the business is modeled after Baltimore’s Meadowbrook Aquatic and Fitness Centers, where Michael Phelps runs a swim school.
“When the YMCA closed, we were a year into our plan,’’ Phillips said. “We know competitive swimming. Our children have been swimming for six years. It’s a big investment. We wanted to bring swimming to Norwalk, but it had to be a good business.”
Swim Seventy will also offer 10 free water safety classes to first-grade students. Phillips said they will also offer scholarships, a competitive swim team, a recreational swim team and infant aquatics.
“I think all of our programming will be good,’’ Phillips said. “There are a lot of adults that need places to swim. I think we’re going to have a great adult membership and kids swimming.
"I think one area that will explode is the rec swim team. Not many other people have. It’s for kids who finish swim lessons and want to keep swimming but not on a real competitive basis. They’ll get the same kind of practice and social experience, but on fewer days. It’s a lot more casual.”
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