A former Recreational Specialist who worked at the Splash Arena years ago says he wants to renovate and revitalize the facility.
During a news conference with Scottsbluff Schools officials Wednesday, Florencio Palomo, a former Gering native and Gering High graduate, told reporters he wants to bring back the Splash Arena, likely a renovation with some new construction that would be tied in to the building where he learned to swim at the age of 26.
Palomo, founded and is Executive Director of the REACH Swim Academy, in the Bronx, NY, which specializes in providing swim lessons to special needs children in a small class environment. He says much of what he learned while working at the Scottsbluff facility he has passed on to those at the REACH Academy; work ethic, connecting with a team, and connecting with the community, which he says is not always easy in a city of millions.
During a visit a few weeks ago, Palomo said he was disappointed when he found the doors of the Splash locked, the result of a large leak in the indoor pool that forced school administrators to close the facility last February. “There would be no REACH if there were no Splash,” said Palomo, adding that it wouldn’t sit well with him to see it turned into a parking lot. “Not only is it heartbreaking because I think it’s a beautiful place and great memories, but I think of the lack of opportunities in the future that aren’t going to be there for the community as of whole, not only Scottsbluff and Gering but all the surrounding communities.”
The restoration effort will not be looking for local tax dollars, rather, Palomo says he plans on being the crusader spearheading the fundraising effort, relying in a large part on his connections and resources in New York. He says local support can be as simple as a ‘thumbs up’ for his plan, or perhaps buying a cupcake or two if there’s a fundraising effort, but the real support will be parents who bring their children for a day at the Splash for lessons or to swim, a swim team that’s highly competitive, and a place that can be utilized for therapy or those with special needs.
Palomo says the timeline is up to stakeholders such as the cities of Scottsbluff and Gering, local school districts, the YMCA and others. Once a consensus has formed on a plan, he says construction could take 18 months to two years, but perhaps the best process would be to build the facility in stages. His vision would include an Olympic pool with a separate diving basin, and a teaching and exercise pool with a raised bottom that would have warmer water often needed for therapy classes for both young and old.
“I want to be able to give back to a place that has given me so much,” said Palomo. “When you look at everything I’ve created in my life in New York City, it all comes back to one place. I cannot sleep at night and feel right knowing I didn’t do as much as I could to make sure it was a place that’s going to be kept alive for generations to come.”