Construction at Huntsville Natatorium forces organizers to get creative with parking for City Meet, July 8-10

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Construction at the Huntsville Brahan Spring Park Natatorium

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – With a $20 million aquatics project in progress at the Huntsville Brahan Spring Park Natatorium, the Rocket City Swim League is making several adjustments to hold the City Meet July 8-10 in the existing structure.

The diving portion of the meet begins on Friday, July 8. The swimming gets underway on Saturday and Sunday at 8:30 a.m., with 10-and-unders competing in the morning sessions and the older swimmers in the afternoon.

The parking lot in front of the Natatorium is now a staging area for heavy equipment. Due to limited parking in the back of the old facility, swimmers and spectators for the city diving and swim competitions will park at Milton Frank Stadium. The city of Huntsville is providing shuttle bus service to the Natatorium and back to Milton Frank.

City Meet is the largest event held annually at the Natatorium with more than 1,200 swimmers expected. In the past, each of the 18 teams set up camp under canopies around the existing structure with swimmers entering the pool area for actual competition. The previous setup is no longer an option.

“With all the construction, it is going to be a challenge,” said RCSL City Meet Director Chris Chance, who is also the First Vice President to the RCSL Board of Directors. “We’ve been working with the city on some of the logistics of moving people in and out. Inside the Nat, everything is going to be just the same. It’s a matter of getting people in and out and the new location of where we are going to put tent city.”

The Huntsville Police Department is allowing the Rocket City Swim League to use its K-9 range located adjacent to the Natatorium for the canopy staging area.

The Huntsville Police Department is allowing the Rocket City Swim League to use its K-9 range located adjacent to the Natatorium for the canopy staging area.

The Huntsville Police Department is allowing the RCSL use their K-9 range located adjacent to the Nat for the canopy staging area.

“The city of Huntsville and the police department have really done so much to help make this possible for the children to have their meet during this transition time,” said Scott Thomas, Assistant City Meet Director and Assistant First Vice President to the RCSL Board of Directors. “As head of volunteers, the help we’ve received from these people with the city in advance makes a big difference.”

City Meet features teams from area pools all around Madison County. Athletes compete at a neutral site in individual events and team relays for overall league individual and team titles as well as league standings. Each team recently completed five dual meets on a home and away basis during the regular season.

This is the 51st year of the swim portion of the meet. Each team is allotted an hour of practice at the Nat the Thursday before the meet, since this is the first time many of the summer league swimmers have used starting blocks. Participants can park at the Nat for their scheduled block practice. The shuttle service runs for all actual City Meet dive and swim events Friday through Sunday.

Sarah Margaret Cimino, 17, of Blossomwood Pool recently set a 50 yard freestyle dual meet record with a time of 24.64. She also set records in the 50 yard butterfly (26.44) and backstroke (27.09.)

Cimino has set numerous other RCSL records over her 12-year career which culminates at City Meet. The upcoming senior at Randolph High School is also an assistant coach at Blossomwood.

“This is my second year as an assistant coach and I’ve been helping out for the past three years,” said Cimino. “There is no greater joy than to have the younger swimmers dive into your arms when they see you. It has happened many times in so many different places, even out of the blue away from the pool setting, and such a blessing every time.”

Sarah Margaret Cimino, 17, has set RCSL records and helps coach Blossomwood's team. (Photo: Philip Black)

Sarah Margaret Cimino, 17, has set RCSL records and helps coach Blossomwood’s team. (Photo: Philip Black)

Cimino is a prep record setter at Randolph and has risen in club swimming with HSA to compete at several prestigious Junior Nationals. She still recalls her first RCSL record in the 6-and-under division in 2005, a time of 20.32 in the 25-meter freestyle.

“I remember how everybody ran up to me and was so happy about what I had just accomplished. It is something special in my heart that will never go away.”

The Mt. Carmel Pool boys age 13-14 medley relay team of Carson Amos, Riley Worshek, Jack Sentell and Neil Hudson set a 200-meter record of 2:07.56 this season. They also set the 200 free relay meters record (1:56.42.) Mt. Carmel’s Daniel Orcutt set age 15-17 meters records in the 50 fly (26.97) and back (27.68.) Worshek set an individual age 13-14 record in the 50 yard fly (25.67.)

Piedmont’s Alexander Nurre placed a new age 13-14 boys 50 breast yards mark of 29.37. Teammate Cade Overbeek set an age 15-17 yards record in the 50 free (21.69.) Piedmont’s Caleb Chance, Alexander Nurre, Austin Smith and Overbeek set a new record (2:13.53) in the boys 200 yard medley relay.

Speedster Regan Weakley of Mountain Springs clocked a 27.70 in the girls 50 meter free. Weakley, along with teammates Devin Campbell, Hannah York and Madelene Garding set a new 15-17 meters mark in the 200 free relay (2:00.56.)

Sherwood Pool girls age 15-17 medley relay swimmers Elise Rinehart, Christina Tarsitano, Mackenzie Holtcamp and Kayla Hammer set a meters record time (2:13.53.)

According to aquatics representatives with the Huntsville City Parks and Recreation Department, the renovated Huntsville Aquatics Center will feature three indoor pools: the existing Natatorium, a therapeutic pool and a larger Olympic facility.

The new facility, once complete, will feature three pools. (Photo: Philip Black)

The new facility, once complete, will feature three indoor pools: the existing Natatorium, a therapeutic pool and a larger Olympic facility. (Photo: Philip Black)

The therapeutic 90-degree fresh water pool structure will consist of four lanes, each at a distance of 25-yards. This facility is currently on schedule for a possible opening in December. The forthcoming Olympic 50-meter pool with a 1,530 seating capacity and a uniform 7.5 foot depth is projected to open in June or July of 2017.

In addition to the new pools, the construction project includes modern blocks added to the existing structure, a larger lobby, major renovations to the existing locker rooms and a glass façade.

With all the adjustments in place to hold the city meet this year during the construction phase, Chance says the extra time and effort is worthwhile.

“There may be some people who are not happy about some of the inconvenience compared to years past, but when the construction is complete, this is going to be a world-class aquatics facility,” Chance said. “The city is telling us that if they keep on schedule that our 2017 City Meet will be the first public event in the new facility.”