MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The University of Memphis held a groundbreaking ceremony for the $12 million Mike Rose Aquatics Center on Wednesday. The Rose Family Foundation made a gift to name the facility in memory of Mike Rose.
The Rose Family Foundation partnered with the UofM to renovate the facility that is used by Memphis Tiger Swimming, Splash Mid-South and the UofM community.
Drowning is a leading cause of death among children ages 1-4. African American children ages 5-19 drown in pools at a rate 5.5 times higher than that of white children. Since the closing of the YMCA on Walker Avenue in 2011, there have been few options available in the University area for swim lessons and drowning prevention training. In addition, Memphis does not have a swimming facility that can accommodate swimming and diving competitions.
"Prior to his passing, I spoke with Mike Rose about his desire to have a natatorium that truly meets the needs of our community," said UofM President M. David Rudd. "I have been committed to achieving this goal of Mike’s. I am very excited that The Rose Family Foundation has made it their mission to work with key organizations in Memphis to make Mike's vision a reality. Today’s groundbreaking is a great day in fulfilling Mike’s vision.”
The pool will be named for the late Rose, a successful businessman and philanthropist.
"The renovated natatorium will prove a wonderful complement to the new Center for Wellness and Fitness, which will offer recreational swimming among other health and fitness that are integrated into the University's core academic mission," added Rudd.
"Created to enrich the community through increased opportunity in education, health and the pursuits of happiness, The Rose Foundation is eager to see the natatorium serve as a center for children's water safety and enrich the lives of underserved youth in our community," said Gabrielle Rose, executive director of The Rose Foundation. "Mike Rose was also a longtime supporter of UofM athletics and Memphis Tiger Swimming because of his belief in sports' ability to shape character and develop leaders. The Rose Foundation is proud to stand behind this project and work on behalf of making my father’s last philanthropic wish for Memphis a reality.
“We are so moved that so many people saw the vision and stepped forward out of caring, out of love and out of believing in this City to be a part of this. So, I am so grateful honored and humbled to be a part of what is really a team effort.
“There are so many kids in Memphis who will not have the opportunity to swim, and that is historic reasons, social reasons. This facility and what Splash Mid-South has already done will allow us to put swimming and the importance of water safety, drowning prevention, to really highlight the importance of that. So, it is going to be about education and engaging the community.”
Among the project's goals are providing free or low-cost swim lessons to 300 underprivileged children, led by Splash Mid-South; introducing swimming to low-income and minority youth to improve the diversity of Memphis Tiger Swimming; offering free CPR classes to UofM students so they can share their skills with the community; generating revenue for the local economy from visitors who attend swimming competitions; and enhancing community relationships through research on drowning prevention.
“It is a dream come true just because we know what the future has in store for us,” said Anthony Norris, co-founder, Splash Mid-South/chief development officer, YMCA of Memphis & the Mid-South. “We have impacted so many lives over the past decade, but without this great facility, it could all come to a screeching halt. So, not only will we be able to keep this great pool, but it will be a state-of-the-art aquatics center, and it will be a magnet for special events to draw people from all over the country, but most importantly, thousands of children and families will learn to swim and their lives will not be the same afterwards.”
Planned renovations include increasing the pool length, improved mechanical and water handling systems, handicap access and expanded seating. The increased seating will make the facility appropriate for training and for regional swimming competitions. Renovations are expected to take about 18 months to complete.