Trumbull swim teams find a home at University of Bridgeport

Trumbull Pisces coach Jess Daigle instructs a swimmer during tryouts on Aug. 30, 2022 at the University of Bridgeport.

Trumbull Pisces coach Jess Daigle instructs a swimmer during tryouts on Aug. 30, 2022 at the University of Bridgeport.

Contributed

TRUMBULL — For more than a year, Trumbull’s swim teams didn’t have a place to call home.

Last July, the pool at Hillcrest Middle School closed for repairs and never reopened. Multiple swim teams — including those at Trumbull High School and the Trumbull Pisces — used the pool for practice and, with its closure, scrambled to find new spots to swim.

For the Trumbull Pisces, a program that provides competitive swimming for children aged 6 to 18, that mostly meant traveling to Foran High School in Milford.

“Our practices would run from 7 to 10 p.m.,” said Tom Racicot, president of Trumbull Pisces. He added that most of the swimmers weren’t getting home until around 10:30 p.m. “It was definitely a strain, particularly on our younger swimmers.”

But this year, the town’s swimmers have landed some place closer to home — the pool at the University of Bridgeport’s Wheeler Recreation Center. The Pisces and other Trumbull swim program started swimming there in the past couple of weeks, and they hope to stay there for at least a few seasons. It’s a huge relief for the once-transient Trumbull swim teams, Racicot said.

“We’re not going to be bouncing around to different pools for the rest of this swim season at least — and hopefully next season,” he said.

The Pisces practices can now be earlier than they were at Foran, from 5 to 8 p.m. And the trip to and from University of Bridgeport is just a few minutes for most Trumbull families.

“It saved our program, to be honest,” said Pisces head coach Bill Strickland. “Our options were dwindling down.”

In addition to Pisces, Strickland coaches the boys and girls swim teams at Trumbull High School and the boy’s team at St. Joseph’s High School in Trumbull. He said it’s still undecided where the St. Joseph’s teams are swimming, but the University of Bridgeport pool has been a welcome landing spot for the Pisces and Trumbull High teams.

Like the Pisces teams, the high school swimmers had to travel to relatively far flung places to practice, including Westport and Orange. Even at these spots, Strickland said, pool time was hard to come by. The Pisces also seemed unlikely to get time at Foran this fall, Strickland said.

“Foran had no teams (at the pool in the spring) but they had three in the fall,” he said. “We weren’t even sure where we were going to be in the fall.”

The move to University of Bridgeport was at least partly brokered by Trumbull’s public works director George Estrada, a former University of Bridgeport employee who still sits on the school’s board of trustees.

“I brought the two organizations together,” Estrada said. “The university was good enough to sit with (the aquatics programs) and negotiate an agreement. I think it’s worked out pretty well for them.”

The Wheeler Center pool had itself been closed for a little more than two years, said David Graham, director of campus recreation and the Wheeler Recreation Center.

University of Bridgeport has no swim team, Graham said, but, before it closed, swimmers from Sacred Heart University had been using the pool, and continued to do so once it reopened. It seemed like a good idea to offer the space to other teams, he said.

“It’s a win-win,” Graham said. “It’s a win for us, because we’re getting activity (in the pool) and it’s a win for them, because they have a home.”

As for when the Trumbull teams will have a home in Trumbull, that remains up in the air, Estrada said. He and other town officials have said it’s unlikely the Hillcrest School pool will reopen, due to the extent of damage to it and the repair costs.

The town had been considering building a combination senior, community and aquatics center on a 25-acre town-owned parcel of land on Hardy Lane. However, in June, First Selectman Vicki Tesoro recommended against a combined project, and suggested that the aquatics facility and the senior/community center be pursued as two separate projects.

The community facilities building committee and aquatics facilities building committee agreed to part ways.

But for now, Racicot said he’s just happy that at least a temporary solution was found close to home.

“It’s much more convenient,” he said. “The consistency of (having a home pool) will really help our program and really help our swimmers.”