By Dedra Cordle
The village of Urbancrest is making moves to get patrons back into the Vaughn E. Hairston Southwest Community Center.
At its regular meeting on Aug. 9, village council unanimously approved a number of legislative items that would allow popular recreational programs to be established within the facility.
The first item that was approved by the council was a resolution for the village to be able to enter into a one-year agreement with Mrs. Nikee Swimming Stars LLC to oversee the aquatics programming.
Recently founded by long-time instructors Ben Fox and Nikee Swanson, the organization aims to provide a variety of services that will extend far beyond the length of the pool.
“We don’t just want to be a place where people come to swim,” said Fox. “Obviously, we want people to come out and swim, but we also want to be able to teach the community skills that they can take with them and apply to their lives outside of the building.”
According to Fox, he and his partner intend to establish training courses for those who wish to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation and basic first aid, while also establishing courses for those looking to be certified babysitters or lifeguards.
“Learning CPR is an incredibly important skill to have,” said Fox, who partners with the American Red Cross to provide training programs across the region. “Not only do we want all of the staff who work in this facility to know how to do CPR and basic first aid, we also want to open this to all of the members and possibly even non-members who just want to have that knowledge.”
Fox said because they are still creating the aquatics programming for the community center, they do not have official dates for when the courses will take place. However, he added everyone should keep it in the back of their minds that they will be offered in the village soon.
In addition to those skill-based courses, the staff with Mrs. Nikee Swimming Stars will also offer traditional swim lessons for all age groups, and they will also provide private lessons for people with special needs.
Fox said his specialty is teaching children and adults with physical disabilities and/or autism their way around the pool – he also served as a special needs educator with the Columbus City Schools for many years – and he wants to continue to offer adaptive programming at this community center as well.
“A swimming pool should be a place where everyone can have fun, where everyone feels like they belong,” he said. “We don’t want to make anyone feel left out and we will take steps to make sure no one feels as if they do not belong.”
Although the organization will run the aquatics programming, they will have to share aquatic space with the Central Crossing High School swim team prior to and during their regular season. Fox said he does not foresee too much conflict with scheduled programming.
“We may have to work around each other, but I think we can find a solution that benefits us all.”
Mrs. Nikee Swimming Stars also intends to host water aerobic classes, synchronized swimming lessons, and scuba diving courses, if desired.
“Much of our programming will be based on what the community wants,” he said. “If they want something different, we will try to find a way to accommodate their interests.”
Fox said they are looking to start aquatics programming at the beginning of September, pending contract approval by the village law director.
“We can’t wait to get in there and get this community back into the pool,” he said.
The second item that was approved by the council was a motion allowing the village to enter into a one-year agreement with Tivity Health to oversee the Silver Sneakers program within the facility.
Silver Sneakers is the nation’s leading exercise program designed exclusively for seniors and those with physical disabilities. In addition to offering a variety of physical activity programs, including therapeutic aquatics programming, it also has an element of socially-oriented programming for added mental wellness.
Councilwoman Deborah Larkins-Jackson said when the Silver Sneakers program was managed by the YMCA of Central Ohio at the facility years ago, they had the highest volume of members in the region.
“We always had a big number of participants in Silver Sneakers at the center,” she said during the meeting.
Mayor Joseph Barnes Sr. said he believes that volume could be even higher if the phone calls he has recently been fielding are an indication of interest.
“I have seniors calling from Grove City, Harrisburg, the west side, down south, and in Canal Winchester and Lockbourne asking when we’re getting this program back,” he said.
With the motion that was passed, officials are hopeful the program will be back at the start of September.
“I don’t want to make any guarantees because there are still a lot of moving parts going,” said Barnes, “but I do know we are on our way to bringing recreational programming back to the community center.”
Another piece that is still being worked out are the community center hours and the membership fees. However, as of press time, the plan is for the facility to be open starting next month from Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.; and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. During the weekday, senior citizens would be able to access the facility during the morning, while afternoon times would be made available for after-school recreation. Non-students would also be able to access the facility during the 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. hours.
Barnes said they are still working on programming for non-seniors and non-students – ideally between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. – but plans have not been finalized yet. Fox said he would like for the aquatics facility to be open from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. but added it could be opened earlier if they are able to hire someone to oversee morning aquatic activities.
The fee schedule is slated to be $25 for all seniors and young adults who reside in the village; $30 for young adults who do not reside in the village; $15 for non-resident youth; and $10 for youth who live in the village. Fox said he would like to explore the option of day-passes for non-members to access the pool but added that decision will be up to the village and the center’s advisory committee. There could also be additional fees for members to access the pool, but officials say that is “an evolving piece” that has yet to be determined.
Questions regarding aquatics programming can be sent to Ben Fox at Fox.email@example.com or by visiting their Facebook pages – Mrs. Nikee Swimming Stars LLC or Mrs. Nikee and Mr. Fox Swimming Stars. They are working on establishing a website for the center.
Questions regarding all other recreational programming can currently be sent to the village administration at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 614-875-1279. The village is currently working on setting up a phone number, email address and website for the community center.