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Swimmers, family members fill Gainesville for event at Frances Meadows center
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Gainesville Tourism manager Deb Gregson tells out-of-towners where to find restaurants Saturday at the GRPA State Swim Championship at the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center in Gainesville. “I’m helping people find local attractions in their downtime,” Gregson said. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Results of meet available at GRPA website

Youth swimmers from around Georgia descended on the Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center on Saturday for the Georgia Recreation and Park Association Class A State Swim Meet.

The three-day event began Thursday and ended Saturday.

The center won the bid to play host to the meet last December, welcoming thousands of swimmers and their families throughout the three days.

The meet showed the staff of the center, Gainesville Parks & Recreation and the Gainesville community were ready for the challenge of holding the big meet.

“We had so many people from all over Georgia with their families and teams to watch these events,” said Zandrea Stephens, recreation program manager for the center. “Today, we were in tip-top shape and ready to go. We pulled together with Gainesville Parks & Recreation. We pulled together as a team and family.

“We got here early, we stayed here late to make this a success. We had volunteers from the community help. The community really stepped up and pitched in to give community service. This has been a grand event for the community. ... It has really helped the community. It has given Frances Meadows publicity. There were so many different aspects that we were able to meet before this grand event.”

According to Andi Harmon, division manager of the center, 142 volunteers were on hand to help with concessions, cleaning and monitoring the swim teams.

“We’ve had over 100 swim meets, and they’re all different,” she said. “There’s a lot that goes into making it a successful event. It took every one to pull this event.”

She also said making a good impression on the visitors was key because it could be a factor in someone returning to the center.

Aquatics Manager Meghan Hill said all the monthly meetings leading into the meet helped the center prepare for all the people and challenges.

“It really hasn’t been stressful,” she said in between the warm-up and finals’ races. “There’s all the factors, and there always can be that one thing that goes wrong,” she said. “If it happens, you just deal with it and make changes as the day goes along.”

Stephens said Harmon and Hill “did all the leg work” for the meet by making the schedules and staying in touch with the coaches and teams leading into the meet.

The center wasn’t the only place that saw visitors during the three days. According to Deb Gregson of Gainesville Tourism & Trade, the Gainesville and Hall County community was impacted economically and socially.

“From an economic standpoint, I know that four or five of our hotels were full because of this,” she said. “I know all the restaurants had business from this event.”

Gregson said the downtown and square area of Gainesville entertained many visitors, along with other attractions.

“Sometimes, it’s the things that we (who live in the community) take for granted that is the biggest draw for those who aren’t from here,” Gregson said.

However, the center itself was an attraction for some.

Doug Tingle, a swim coach for the team from Griffin, said the center made a big impression on his son.

“We’ve had a ball,” he said. “My son and I came over Thursday night for the event and had a blast. My son also has a had a blast at the waterpark. I told him ‘It won’t be hard to talk him into coming back here.’”

Harmon said the visitors throughout the three days had been very complimentary of the center.

“We had some one refer to our facility as the Taj Mahal of aquatic centers,” she said.

The center at 1545 Community Way has been closed since Thursday to the public, but reopen at 11 a.m. today.

For more information on the aquatic center, call 770-533-5850 or visit