PWCS Aquatics Center Offers Year-Round Swimming to All Ages

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By Delia Engstrom

The PWCS Aquatics Center is located within Charles J. Colgan Senior High School.

PWCS Aquatics Center has made quite a splash since opening in fall 2016. Unlike other area indoor pools, this facility is the first in the county to be constructed inside a public school. Long awaited by advocates and hotly debated by opponents, the center is located within Charles J. Colgan Senior High, Prince William County’s newest high school and at a cost of $111 million to build, the state’s most expensive one.

The aquatics center is home to a 500,000 gallon competition pool (with two diving boards), a 50,000 gallon zero-depth entry leisure pool, and a 150-foot long waterslide. Although plans for a pool within a school originally caused some ripples of concern, the aquatics center wasted no time making all of that water available to county residents of all ages and abilities.

With an entrance separate from the high school, the center is open year round and seven days a week. On any given day, patrons can take advantage of all the center has to offer. With the center’s early morning hours during the week, opening at 6:00 a. m. on Mondays and 5:00 a. m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, residents are able to squeeze in a swim before heading off to work. Swimming enthusiasts can also unwind after a long day with evening hours until 9:00 p. m. Monday through Friday. Weekend hours are 6:00 a. m. – 4:00 p. m., offering plenty of time for family fun. A pool feature with spray rings and dump buckets brings lots of laughs with kids.

As part of the county school system, it’s only fitting that education is one of the key components of PWCS Aquatics Center’s mission. Water safety instruction is offered to second graders from nine elementary schools as part of a pilot program being run this school year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, drowning is the second leading cause of death among children under age 14, and the center strives to introduce as many youngsters as possible to the pool. PWCS Aquatics Center Manager Allen Dunn explained that “students will visit the aquatics center for 45 minutes once a week for six weeks. The students will receive instruction in water safety based on the American Red Cross Learn-To-Swim curriculum.” This program is being provided free of charge to the students and schools that are participating. In addition, Dunn notes the “generous donation of 650 swim suits from Keifer Swim Sports for students who cannot otherwise afford one.”

PWCS Aquatics Center also offers cost-effective swimming instruction for all skill levels from infants to adults. Most classes are held twice a week and run for a month. Special needs children also have an opportunity to enjoy the leisure pool and waterslide during a closed, after-hours session. Funded by the Northern Virginia Chapter of POAC (Parents of Autistic Children), this event takes place once a month and has been well received by parents and children alike. Montclair resident Yukiko Dove remarked that the center was very accommodating and that “the lifeguards were especially understanding of children with special needs, allowing them extra time to exit the waterslide.”

During the winter months swim and dive teams from area high schools use the center for both practices and meets. Colorful banners representing Battlefield, Brentsville, Colgan, Forest Park, Freedom, Gar-Field, Hylton, Osbourn Park, Patriot, Potomac and Stonewall Jackson high schools are proudly displayed above the pool deck. In total, 56 high schools compete at the aquatics center during regular, conference and regional meets. A moveable bulkhead allows for various meet configurations of 25-meter and 25-yard options, and a large electronic scoreboard relays instant results to those on the pool deck and in the expansive viewing area upstairs. With a capacity for 465, spectators may expect an uncomfortable experience. However, the center has a state-of-the-art system designed to reduce the amount of chloramines (the chemical released into the air that is often attributed to chlorine) and control humidity. Five large overhead fans aid in air circulation as swim fans cheer on the competitors.

PWCS Aquatics Center also offers Parent’s Night Out options and birthday parties that include two hours of pool time and exclusive use of the party room.

In addition to the high schools, area swim clubs and homeowner association teams were anxious to begin using the pools. Currently Occoquan Swimming, Amberjax, Endorphin Fitness, the Lake Ridge Lancers, the Meadowbrook Woods Makos and the Ashland Stingrays all operate programs on various days. Head Coach Chris Bodmer of the Ashland Stingrays employs 21 coaches who help instruct 130 swimmers ranging in age from 3-16 during their unday evening program. In past years, the Stingrays traveled to the Freedom Center in Manassas to hold practices. Bodmer is pleased with the aquatics center, stating, “The proximity to our neighborhoods and the quality of the facility, especially the air quality, are big positives for us.”

PWCS Aquatics Center also offers Parent’s Night Out options, and birthday parties that include two hours of pool time and exclusive use of the party room.

Grab your goggles, slip on your suit and dive into the county’s newest aquatics center. Daily rates are $5 for youth and seniors and $7.50 for adults. A single-visit family pass is available for $15. Memberships are also available for children, adults and seniors. More information can be found on the center’s website at pwcs. edu/aquatics_center or by calling 571-374-6333. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter for updated operational information. PWCS Aquatics Center is located at 13833 Dumfries Road, Manassas. The main entrance is located directly across from the Colgan High School stadium at door #25.

Delia Engstrom ( is a writer, photographer and wife to a retired U.S. Marine. She spends a lot of time at local pools since her daughter swims competitively.


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