"We did it!" Olympian Lilly King speaks, swims at aquatic center dedication
A historic day for Evansville Friday. The $28.5 million Deaconess Aquatic Center opens to the public Monday.
“Welcome to the Lilly King Competiton Pool!”
That comment by Evansville Deputy Mayor Steve Schaefer kicked off the ribbon cutting and dedication of the Deaconess Aquatic Center Friday afternoon.
While officials are quick to point out that there are several features of the new aquatic center, like a separate recreational pool, outdoor splash park and community rooms, they kicked off the ribbon cutting and dedication in the crown jewel, named for Evansville native and Olympic champion Lilly King.
Mayor Lloyd Winnecke talked about the first meetings with local supporters of the aquatic center idea. The mayor noted his administration was not immediately ready to jump into such a big capital project.
“But, Dr. Andrew Tharp and the others that were with him, did plant a really important seed- and that is that we needed to start the planning to replace a pool that had served our city since 1975.”
In 2016, a task force was formed to take the center from idea to reality. Groundbreaking was held on December 11, 2019.
Winnecke said, “My friends, the Deaconess Aquatic Center will unquestionably change and improve the quality of our life in this region for decades.”
Evansville’s other Olympic champion, paralympian Mikaela Jenkins was not able to attend the ribbon cutting, but did send a message to the young swimmers in attendance.
“I would say that regret lasts longer than pain. And, I feel like that can apply to so much, like you can always regret something that you don’t try your hardest to accomplish," Jenkins said, "Whether it’s a test or it’s sports, or just life in general, I always think that you should give it your all, all the time.”
The final speaker at the Deaconess Aquatic Center dedication was Lilly King.
“I grew up swimming at Lloyd Pool, and that’s someplace that no child ever wanted to say they grew up at. I’m really, really excited for the future of swimming in Evansville, and not just competitive swimming, but lessons and recreational swimming, being able to introduce aquatics to a much broader audience, and uh, we’re here, we did it.”
Speeches over, it was time to swim. A demonstration race was staged, with the Olympic gold medalist herself in lane five. King thrilled the crowd with her trademark arm and leg slaps as she stood on the starting block, although in this case, it was not to intimidate her competitors, which were a group of local young swimmers.
After the race, the adults moved on for ribbon cuttings at the Welborn Baptist Foundation recreational pool and the Center Point Energy outdoor splash pad.
The youngsters, however, didn’t waste any time, jumping in the competition pool for swim practice. On this day, in honor of the pool’s namesake, they were practicing- what else- the breast stroke.