Efforts to have an indoor swimming center in Southampton date back to the 1930s — the original school building plans included one, though it never materialized.
Two decades ago the town, Southampton College, and Southampton Hospital discussed building an aquatic center, but a referendum to fund the project was rejected by voters.
But the dream remains, and Josephine DeVincenzi wants to bring her vision to fruition. “It would have cost $12 per family” to build, she lamented, but at the time, the hospital was in financial difficulty and voters were not in a generous mood.
Cut to 2018. There is still some money left from the original fundraising effort, and DeVincenzi has a new design and renewed hope for the planned facility.
Her group, the Southampton Town Aquatics & Recreation, Inc., held an informational meeting on May 1 to discuss the project. This time around DeVincenzi, the vice president of the group, is determined to use private funds to build it. The town has already agreed to provide land at Red Creek Park via a long-term lease.
“It’s unconscionable that we don’t have a facility here. It makes me angry,” she said.
And with good reason. Two decades ago, when she was serving as a school principal, two teenagers drowned. “Young people tell me when they go to house parties, they are afraid of the deep end of the pool. It’s because there were no pools around when they were growing up,” she noted.
The center would be comprised of three bodies of water — a regulation size pool, of course, that can be used by competitive high school swimming teams. Also planned are a heated lazy river run and a therapeutic pool.
“It will be membership based but it will be affordable,” she said.
No cost estimate had been provided as of press time.
STAR is a private, non-profit group seeking the town’s support through a long-term land lease and working to raise funds through private donors, state and federal grants, and commitments from user groups for the development of an indoor aquatics center at Red Creek Park in Hampton Bays.
Members of the STAR board and their consultants from Sports Facility Advisory and Counsilman-Hunsaker (aquatic specialists), presented updated information on the project and answered questions from the public and town board members. The group also unveiled a website and fundraising plans that have begun.
“It will be perfect for young families. It will be packed during the winter,” DeVincenzi said. “Lives have been lost because kids do not get the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of swimming.”