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West Orange Times & Observer Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019 5 months ago

New SouthWest Aquatics facility taking shape

The indoor pool will offer additional space for the organization’s swimming programs, and a new training spot for the STARS swim team.
by: Troy Herring Sports Editor

If you’ve driven by the corner of Windermere and Warrior roads in Winter Garden, you may have noticed the construction going on.

Standing atop the dirt sits the large, metal skeleton of what will be SouthWest Aquatics’ next big pool.

The new facility — which will hold the 25-yard long, eight-lane-wide pool — has been in the works for the last two years. Construction started back in February, owner Joy McGinty said.

It’s a welcomed addition to SouthWest Aquatics. For the older members of the STARS swim team, it gives them a place to really shine.

“Our swim team — the kids that started when they were really little — have progressed to where they’re national swimmers now,” McGinty said. “And big kids swim in cool water — they need 78 to 80 degree water, because they swim long distances and they swim fast.

“With the one pool we have, if we keep that at 80 degrees — it’s too cold for our younger swim team kids that are 6, 7 and 8 years old,” she said. “They need 85 degree water for their best workouts — they’re not swimming nearly as much yardage and they’re doing a lot of technique work, so it needs (to be) a little bit warmer.”

At the moment SouthWest Aquatics has its 25-yard, 10-lane competition pool that many swimmers use, while the 30-by-50 pool inside is heated to 90 degrees and is used for the organization’s youngest swimmers.

Along with the brand-new pool for older swimmers, the new facility also will hold offices for coaches, locker rooms and the building itself will have seven overhead garage doors that will open up and let a breeze come through. The indoor pool the organization currently has is similar in that it has 10 sliding glass doors to open the space up a bit.

But along with the opportunities offered by a pool, there’s also something else that the facility will offer — more space.

With Florida being prone to daily thunderstorms in the summer, oftentimes swimmers who are practicing in the outside pool are forced into the smaller space inside. It can be a bit of a nightmare, McGinty said.

“It gets packed,” McGinty said. “It’s absolutely critical to have some place to go. We’ve dealt with it, because everybody moves into a different room inside the building that we have, but it gets loud in there and the office will be very happy to have the team go to a different area when it rains. 

“When you get them in there and they’re watching videos, and they’re seeing the people that they really admire swimming, they’re yelling and it gets crazy,” she said. “We love our kids, and we love their noise, but it can make it hard to answer phones.”

For McGinty — who has been teaching swimming since 1992 — this latest addition to the organization she founded in 2000 behind Gotha Middle School is just a fuller realization of her lifelong dream of helping kids learn to swim. 

It’s also why she founded the nonprofit The Gift of Swimming in 2003, which offers swimming lessons to underprivileged, mentally or physically challenged or otherwise disadvantaged children.

“It’s just so incredible,” McGinty said. “These are kids that would never, ever be able to afford swim lessons and it’s just so fun. Their teachers love it, and Head Start has already done studies, and the classrooms that we have done score higher in many of their testings.”

Through SouthWest Aquatics and The Gift of Swimming, McGinty has been able to do a lot with the sport she has loved for all these years. It gives her the chance to truly give back to the community of Winter Garden.

“We want to offer a facility that allows each child to be the best that they can be — that they can excel to the level that they want to excel,” McGinty said. “For us, it’s just important that every child learns how to swim.”

Troy Herring is the sports editor at the West Orange Times and Windermere Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Mount Olive (BS '12) and the University of Alabama (MA '16)....

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