By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The sound of starting horns, the splash of swimmers jumping into the water, and spectator cheers had been absent from the pool in the Ned Shott Gymnasium for some time, but Tuesday evening Bluefield State College, the Bluefield Blue Dolphins and the Concord C-Lions all celebrated the renovation of the college’s natatorium.
Years of wear and tear had taken its toll on the pool, located on the ground floor of the gymnasium. After a concerted effort by the school and community, the facility has been refurbished and stands ready to serve as a recreation cornerstone in the area.
Louis Belt is with BSC and oversees the pool.
“Sheila Johnson (BSC Vice President for Financial and Administrative Affairs) and the administration led a charge to reopen the pool through fundraising and donations. They were able to spend $300,000 on renovations and it is just beautiful,” Belt pointed out. “There is a new pump, new filtration equipment, new safety equipment, new recreational equipment, new lane lines, new starting blocks. It was a beautiful pool t begin with, with the high ceiling, bay windows and the architecture of it. Along with these improvements and renovations, and I am a bit biased, I think it’s one of the nicest pools in the entire state.”
Harry Ratliff is coach of the Bluefield Blue Dolphins swim team and he is very familiar with the facility.
“When I was a kid we swam here for the Bluefield Beavers swim teams. We practiced here and had meets here against PikeView in 1999 and 2000,” Ratliff recalled. “This is like home for the kids and adults who swim here. The bleachers are probably second only to WVU and it’s just a tremendous facility.”
Jill Puckett heads the C-Lions and also swam in the pool during her competitive swimming days.
“They’ve done an amazing job renovating the pool,” Puckett said. “The paint job, the blocks, the lane lines, everything is way better than it used to be.”
Ratliff said the renovations allow the Blue Dolphins to have a home in which the swimmers are proud.
“The kids have absolutely fallen in love with it,” Ratliff said. “The kids from Bluefield, their home pool was between Athens, the (Greater Bluefield) Community Center and then we introduced this one when it was being revamped. They love it here.”
Puckett added, “Our kids really like it. They were saying, ‘Did you see those blocks, and their lane lines are so clean. They like swimming here.”
Belt said that the college and community are committed to assisting the area’s youth.
“Not only are we a school where we want to do a lot for our students, I think the City of Bluefield and Bluefield State go hand-in-hand with each other,” Belt said. “Anything we can do to help the community, I think benefits us and everybody else.
“It’s another positive outlet. Whether it’s playing football, playing tennis, whatever types of programs that are positive that help the kids is what we’re all about.”
The pool is available for private parties and in conjunction with the Bluefield Department of Parks and Recreation swim lessons will begin on July 8 and July 15. For more information contact Belt at the Office of Student Life at Bluefield State College.
— Contact Bob Redd