As a young boy growing up on the Westside of Evansville, I participated in a number of outdoor activities during the summer. One of these occurred just a couple of miles from my house at Helfrich pool. Squeezed between Helfrich Park Middle School and green space next to Helfrich Hills Golf Course and Fire Station #5 (where my father-in-law spent decades in service) was this tiny little city pool where thousands of kids like me jumped in the chilly water on a hot summer day to learn how to swim. Always one of the slower ones, but with enough technique to keep me above water, this little pool became one of my earliest experiences in swimming for recreation and fitness.
Decades later, my wife and I found ourselves standing on the edge of a different pool an hour outside of St. Louis. Our friends had done a triathlon in the previous year, and we thought it would be a fun way to become more active. Having swam just a few times prior to the competition, I was nervous for it to start, as swimming even a couple of laps would leave me winded; I was still years away from learning a critical lesson for making swim a whole lot more fun and accessible, which is that the carbon dioxide you breathe out is just as important as the oxygen you breathe in. But for the moment, this jump into the waters of eastern Missouri would be an unlikely start to a later run in the world of triathlons, and an unexpected opening to a new option for activity that I have come to love.
This past year, the Evansville area opened arguably the finest aquatic facility in the state of Indiana. With a state of the art competition pool, diving well, and recreation pool equipped with a splash pad, water basketball court, and zero entry access, this beautiful facility across from historic Bosse Field already serves as a great treasure for the Tri-State area. Certain to welcome numerous competitions from across the region, it also offers something that hasn’t been available for the general public until now. That is, morning lap swim opportunities starting at 5 AM in the 25 yard competition pool. Pass packages, which don’t expire, can be purchased from anywhere from 15 visits for $55.00 to 45 visits for $135.00; single day options for $6.00 are also available. The locker rooms are full equipped and parking area for the pool is well lit and easily accessible. For those who really love to swim, there is a Master Swimmer’s option on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 5 AM-6 AM. Further details about this and any other functions related to the Aquatic Center can be found by calling 812-402-9770.
On the morning after local girls swim sectional, in which hundreds of people (including myself) crowded into the stands above the pool to witness some riveting races for births into the state finals competition, I was back to the pool at 5 AM. All was quiet as I slipped into the water for an early morning workout. The throngs of fans and competitors had long since left, leaving just the memories of an exciting night of racing in Evansville’s newest arena. As I found myself coming to the wall, and turning to breathe toward the seating area above, I imagined what it must have been like for those girls, including my daughter, coming down the homestretch midst the screaming fans. Just for a moment, I found myself with less than 25 yards to go, trying to hold off my competitors for a state birth that lie just seconds away. Quickly, the time on the wall reminded me who I was, and it was but a pleasant entry into the lives who spent years dedicating themselves to the sport. And yet, as I continued my laps that morning, knowing that the rest of the day would not be as simple and peaceful, I gave thanks for this new opportunity to be active, and even a little adventurous, looking forward to the day when many from this area would take advantage of this newfound gem.