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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: A good idea in the wrong place

An aquatic center on what used to be the Stillwell
building is a good idea in the wrong place.

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During a capital planning workshop last month, School Board member Blair Craven stunned his colleagues and set off tremors in the Bearcat Nation when he
suggested that among the uses for the land beneath the Hendersonville High School classroom building and auditorium might be an indoor swimming pool. All four public high schools with varsity sports teams could practice and hold meets there.
In a form of mild hazing, Bearcat upperclassmen have for years told wet-behind-the-ears freshmen that there’s a swimming pool
on the roof of the big brick building. If the aquatic center came to pass, a swimming pool would become a reality. Except there would be no historic brick building underneath. Stillwell would be reduced to a pile of rubble and then hauled off to the dustbin of
history.
School Board members tossed around a lot of ideas last month
in what Craven called “brainstorming.” As he points out, Craven was one of two votes on the School Board who opposed a new HHS over Stillwell building renovation. While he’s not necessarily in favor of bulldozing the structure, he says the School Board
ought to look at all options thoroughly and dispassionately.
Because Craven voted no on the motion to build a new school, he may not feel as committed to the spirit of that motion. School Board members who voted yes made it clear they were not voting to bulldoze Stillwell. In fact, the three bodies that cast the votes to all did so with the explicit pledge that the historic building would not be razed. Whether it becomes a handicapped-accessible performing arts center, a new central office headquarters, a ninth-grade academy or something else, Stillwell ought to be preserved and used for the good of the community.
But we could use an aquatic center. And guess what? The old baseball diamond at BRCC is the perfect place for it. Yes, we know the Board of Commissioners had tagged that land for the sheriff’s indoor shooting range and tactical training center. We’d lay odds that the $20 million facility, if it gets built at all, won’t have a
BRCC address.
An aquatic center at BRCC would be convenient for all four high schools. Henderson County commissioners, BRCC, the School Board and perhaps the YMCA could form the same sort of creative partnership that birthed the Health Sciences Center to build and operate the aquatic center so it serves the whole community, offering swimming lessons, water aerobics for retirees and adult lap swims. Add portable bleachers and we’d have one of the better venues for prep swim meets.
Let Stillwell be Stillwell, and serve the community as it has for
91 years. Build the pool at BRCC. Everyone wins.