Aquatics director makes splash with changes

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Kris Sampson, the executive director of the Mission Valley Aquatics Center in Polson, shares goals during the January Kiwanis meeting in Polson. (Ashley Fox/Lake County Leader)

A recent series of changes that have started at the Mission Valley Aquatics Center in the Ridgewater subdivision in Polson have been going swimmingly, according to the new executive director.

During the January Kiwanis meeting Thursday, Jan. 17, Kris Sampson spoke, sharing her vision for the center.

“My ultimate vision… is to have a facility that provides opportunities for the entire Mission Valley,” she said.

There have been changes “from top to bottom,” ranging from new classes to new board of directors members, fresh classes, new software, and rebranding of the facility, to name a handful.

Although she is looking to add more classes and events, Sampson said that scheduled activities already in place are “being protected,” and she is looking to add things “to fill in the gaps.”

Currently, the center offers several water aerobics classes, swimming lessons for kids and adults, after school program where kids take the bus there, get a healthy snack and then ‘hit the pool’.

There is also designated swim time for people to swim laps on their own.

The facility is also the home of the Flathead Monsters, made up of 25 local students who swim competitively.

School-aged kids use the pool, too.

Nancy Hemphill, new marketing and community outreach director at MVAC, said that currently, a grant from the Greater Polson Community Foundation is allowing Linderman Elementary students to participate in a two-year swimming course after school.

Funding to meet criteria for the matching-grant is being sought after, Hemphill said, to ensure the program stays in place.

KEEPING WITH the theme of changes, Sampson shared some history about herself.

About a year ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which she said made her “reprioritze” her life.

She turned an interest of health and fitness into a passion, which then turned into a job.

In October 2018, Sampson was approached by a MVAC board member, asking if she’d be interested in the executive director position after the previous director resigned.

Last month, she was hired.

“I’ve never been more excited about a job in my life,” Sampson said.

While making changes in her own life, Sampson realized that MVAC was in need of changes, she noted.

SAMPSON SAID she has hired some new personnel, including Hemphill, a part-time marketing manager, as well as a swim instructor with experience working with children with disabilities.

Upon diving into her new role at MVAC, Sampson said she’s realized that the facility is “extremely underutilized.”

There are two rooms, the fitness room and a party room, that are rarely used.

She’s working on bringing programs to fill the space, opening the doors up to the residents of the valley.

The fitness room will have various classes including kickboxing, tai chi and stretching, while the party room will tentatively host occasional classes like self-defense and family-fun nights, Sampson said.

Going forward, Sampson said she hopes that the changes she and staff present through 2019 help make the state-of-the-art facility “very busy.”

MVAC, located at 309 Ridgewater Drive, broke ground in July 2012 and opened in May 2013.

The project was approximately $6 million.

There are two pools that include an eight lane, 25-yard main pool where lap swimming and competitions are held, and a warm water therapy pool that averages temperatures of 95 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit used for physical therapy and relaxation.

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