Springboard to success
Last month, Houston celebrated the opening of the Harris County Aquatics Center, the new home for the 17-year-old Harris County Aquatics Program (HCAP). The program, which was created for inner-city youth to develop leadership and teamwork skills through the fundamentals of swimming, had been operating out of various facilities throughout the city.
HCAP was established in 1992 by Harris County Precinct One Commissioner El Franco Lee, Thurman Robbins and Swim Coach Johnnie Means. All HCAP programs — which include swim instruction, coaching and competition — are free and open to any Harris County student age 7 to 18. More than 50 HCAP participants have earned college scholarships for swimming, and three have competed in Olympic trials. A former competitive swimmer, Commissioner Lee designed the program to encourage discipline, self-esteem and self-determination in young people.
The 22,500-square-foot aquatics center features a 75-foot-wide by 100-foot-long pool with eight competition lanes, and three training and instructional lanes. Designed by locally based Hermes Architects and built by Providence, R.I.-based Gilbane for $7.1 million, the center’s primary funding partners were Harris County Precinct One and Houston, which contributed $3 million through Community Development Block Grants. Several local foundations and the Houston Rockets also contributed grants.