Paul Cowan won’t miss the drive to Salmo.
The president of the Nelson Neptunes swimming team was at the Nelson and District Community Complex on Thursday for the renovated pool’s grand opening. The Neptunes have kept their heads above water by travelling to pools in Salmo and Castlegar since September 2015 while construction took place.
That’s all over now to Cowan’s relief.
“It’s been really hard. I’ve been saying to my wife and other people on the team that looking back over the summer, swimming in Salmo and doing all that driving, it was fine at the time,” said Cowan. “But seeing it in the rear-view mirror now I’m really happy because it was hard, it was long.”
The time away from Nelson was difficult for the 50-year-old organization.
But the team has struggled to recruit young swimmers without a home of their own.
“So we’re starting from scratch with new swimmers,” said Cowan. “The response has been pretty good so far with the practices this fall. We’ve got some pretty strong membership so it seems to be building but yeah, it will take us a couple years to get back to where we want to be.”
The Nelson pool hasn’t always been friendly to the Neptunes — they lost their 2013 season when ceiling tiles fell, prompting the pool to be closed for a time.
But with the $4.5-million renovation finished, Cowan expects the team to grow once more.
“It’s a beautiful facility for one. The lighting, the sound, it’s going to make it much easier to train in there,” he said. “Just because of the changes they’ve made to the shallow pool, it actually makes it a little bit better for us. We used to only get half the shallow pool and now we’re getting the whole shallow pool.
“So as long as we can still get pool time being juggled in between their lessons and us, and the Kootenay Swim Club, we should be further ahead I think.”