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Barton swim possible
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In May of 2015, Barton Community College trustees thought the college might need to raise local taxes to pay for upkeep on its swimming pool. The other option was to close the pool.

There were pool supporters with suggestions for raising money. Ideas included a partnership with the Great Bend Recreation Commission (or some other county rec commission), starting a college swim team, or asking the community to create and contribute to an endowed fund.

A year later, Great Bend USD 428 and the Golden Belt Swim Squad are now picking up some of the cost to maintain the pool, and there are endowed funds at the Golden Belt Community Foundation to support youth swim programs.

Even though the college has kept its mill levy unchanged, the pool has received necessary improvements and remained open. It still costs the college a lot more to maintain the pool than any revenue it brings in. Since it doesn’t get much use from BCC students, the pool is mostly considered a community service, albeit a valuable one.

Now the BCC administration is looking at possibly starting a college swim team, a move Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman calls a “win-win.” If the board of trustees agrees and the national conference then gives its blessing, men and women could be swimming for Barton by this time next year. That means the pool will become more of an asset than a liability, and several more students may decide to come to the college.

If this happens, there will be issues to work out, such as scheduling and agreements for sharing and storing equipment. But given the popularity of high school swim teams in this area, it shouldn’t be hard to fill the 30 roster spots on a team. This creates more opportunities for local student athletes to earn scholarships and continue to compete after high school. It may also bring in some revenue to offset the cost of maintaining a pool. It could even be the start of a trend where other Kansas community colleges start swim teams.

The idea didn’t get a lot of attention over a year ago, when the college was already making plans to start a wrestling program. But now that the wrestling program has finished a successful and profitable first year, people have put pen to paper and decided a swim program might indeed be a splashing success.