New CHS pool manager launches expanded swimming programs

New CHS pool manager launches expanded swimming programs

Marshall Muir is updating and will operate the Cumberland High School swimming pool independent of the town. (Valley Breeze photo by Bruce McCabe)
Muir Aquatics of Warwick to operate, staff and maintain the pool

NOTE: This story corrects a statement that the Penguins team at the Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland-Lincoln was disbanded.

CUMBERLAND - Muir Aquatics of Warwick took over management of the Cumberland High School pool last week, relieving the School Department of much of the expense, and presumably, all of the headaches associated with the 39-year-old facility.

Marshall Muir, the 33-year-old operator, is a native Australian who says he's employing the pool management techniques he learned there.

About to be launched, he said, is a new competitive swimming club, community swim lessons, open swim times for the public, adult classes, and recreational activities as traditional as birthday pool parties and unique as movie nights that require plenty of floats for the audience.

Not only that, but he's bringing back the nationally competitive Bluefish Swim Club of Attleboro that left the CHS pool two years ago. With that team will be more classes and competitive meets.

On top of it all, Cumberland High's own Clipper swim team is assured of its home pool from 2 to 4:30 p.m. daily in addition to meets.

Muir told The Breeze this week, "There's a rich history of swimming in Cumberland and I want to preserve and re-ignite it."

His programming will run year-round, he said, and his contract with the town gives him access to the pool from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.

He plans an open house soon to explain his entire program to the community.

Muir is promising reasonable pricing, especially for Cumberland residents, suggesting open swim fees of $3 for adults and $2 for children, lessons at $16, and swim team memberships in the range of $75 a month.

He's hoping to offer lunchtime lap swimming, aerobics classes, and rental time to physical therapists or scuba instructors.

"We've got water to rent," he quips.

Since Muir took over on July 1 under a three-year contract, the metal bleachers that filled the apron surrounding the pool have been cut back or eliminated, blue and white paint has livened up the walls that were a pale yellow, and a punchlist of upgrades tackled.

Muir says he's creating office space for each of the groups that will be using the facility.

The future of Cumberland's pool had been the subject of lengthy school board discussions last year when $100,000 was invested in repairs at the same time some were advocating shutting it down.

It is no longer used by physical education classes, but the Clippers swim team sent passionate representatives to school board meetings who convinced members to consider alternatives that led to the relationship with Muir.

Muir says the pool's condition "is not bad. It just needs a little updating and needed a cleanup."

Like all pools, he said, it needs constant attention.

Muir immigrated with his family to the U.S. as a 9-year-old, grew up in Warwick and graduated from Pilgrim High School before heading off to Florida Atlantic University where his swim coach was an Olympic silver medalist.

After college he returned to his native land for five years, where he broadened his coaching skills and understanding of pool management.

Back in the USA, he's the father of two boys, ages 7 and 4, who swim with his Envious Swim Club program that he launched in 2007 at the McDermott Pool in Warwick.

Muir's programs operate now from three pools: McDermott, Bryant University since 2012, and now Cumberland. He's negotiating currently with East Providence High School, said to be the only other high school pool in the state, to reopen it under his management.

He speaks generally of a "scarcity of pools," noting that Providence closed two public pools this year alone.

"There's a love of swimming," he says, "but pools are disappearing."

Under the terms of a contract signed in late June by the Cumberland School Committee, Muir's rent is $28,800 the first year, $31,200 the second year and $33,600 in the third year.

Additionally, in year three, the School Department will begin collecting 30 percent of net revenues.

Muir stresses the school budget will immediately be spared the cost of chemicals and cleaning and will reap the benefit of several energy-saving investments he'll make, including a pool cover.

Muir has also promised a series of upgrades to the facilities in the first year including reconfiguring the girls shower and installing a handicap lift.

The most expensive fix, a new filtration system, will be considered, but Muir said Cumberland's is a workhorse known in the industry for its superior processing and he's hoping to keep it running.

Muir Aquatics employs more than 30 instructors and coaches at its three facilities, says Muir, including Linsey Deschenes and Jerry Cummiskey, who were the coaches of the Penguins Swim Team at the Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland-Lincoln.

The Penguins swim in the RIMA league, Rhode Island Massachsetts Swim League, the same league that Muir hopes his new Cumberland-based team will be part of.

He notes that his Warwick Envious Team and the Bluefish Swim Club are both part of the USA Swim league.