NORCROSS - For years, the swimmers and divers at Greater Atlanta Christian School have traveled off campus for practices that end as late as 9:30 or 10 p.m.
As of Monday, the Spartan Swim and Dive Team will be able to stay on campus to practice and compete in a state-of-the-art swimming pool in the school's new Freeman Aquatic Center.
"We're like 10-year-olds at Christmas," said Karen Blackman, the school's swim coach. "We've been dreaming and thinking about this (for years)."
The 78 members of GAC's junior varsity and varsity swim and dive teams opened the pool Monday afternoon with the "Big Splash," after GAC President David Fincher dedicated the aquatic center, a facility that cost more than $7.1 million and took 222 days to construct.
Students began their first practice in the pool immediately after the "Big Splash."
The money for the aquatic center came from donations to the Higher Ground Capital Campaign, said Jill Morris, the school's director of community relations. Since 2006, about $22 million has been collected for the $26 million, four-year campaign, which will be used for new and expanded facilities, student enrichment, financial aid and faculty endowment, and future campus expansion.
Scott Lenyk, who graduated from GAC in 1999 and swam for Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia, said the aquatic center was unbelievable.
"Outside of collegiate pools, I've never seen a pool this nice," Lenyk said. "I couldn't ever believe this could ever happen."
GAC students said they are excited to have a pool on their campus.
"This will be a great place to train over the summer," said Isaac Aiken, 17, a senior on the dive team who wants to continue the sport in college.
Ninth-grader Elise Martin, 15, said she thought the pool was "really amazing," and she was excited to see the pool open.
"We've got lots of new records to set," she said.
Fincher said the pool will also be used to help all GAC students become competent in swimming. The school will integrate the pool into its curriculum, and the junior high classes will begin using the pool in March, he said.